Sunday, December 17, 2006

Anhyong!!! Welcome to Korea!

Its been a week since i got back from the land of the morning calm but i'm still pretty much having a holiday hangover! Korea is indeed a beautiful country as seen in some of the popular Korean dramas like Winter Sonata and All In. They've got lots of unspoilt natural landscapes, the urban areas are well developed and clearly at a very advanced stage of industrialisation, the people are generally friendly, and customer service is good. My only gripe, of course, is that it is not a very foreigner friendly country. Most writings are in Korean and few people have a basic command of English.

Thats a pic overlooking the Han River. Its amazing how the Koreans have constructed numerous flyovers and bridges in Seoul. The Han River alone has 26 bridges spanning it in the metropolitan area itself.

We touched down on a cold morning at Incheon Aiport, Korea's new state of the art airport with really beautiful architecture. Asiana Airlines was not bad, hostesses pretty friendly, but the Airbus A330 had some problems with its air-conditioning so it was pretty stuffy during the flight. The Bibimbap which they served on board was a good change from the usual Chinese food.

If you thought Singapore was crowded, think again! The city of Seoul is about the same size of Singapore but there are 23 million people living there! Thats almost 6 times the population density of Singapore! Amazingly, the city is like Tokyo, highly ordered, highly developed. A comprehensive subway system links most parts of the city and wide tree lined boulevards are a common sight downtown.

We could almost get lost in the labyrinth of the subway system, if not for John, my Korean friend who was kind enough to show us around! (John studies dentistry in Uni Melbourne)

Thats John (extreme left), me and my siblings. This is the trendy and hip downtown district of Myeongdong.

The first night in Korea was spent at a most enjoyable hot spring in Amyeondo. Imagine running out into the freezing, almost sub zero temperatures in your swimming trunks and getting into a nice hot tub filled with natural spring water. There were also other tubs containing jasmine, mint and greentea.

The Korean theme parks are something different from the usual western ones like Universal Studios and Disneyland. Some of them like Lotte World were made popular by Korean love dramas.
At Everland Theme Park...feeling much better after puking up thanks to a ride which was a combination of a Viking ship and a spinning carousel. The young attendants at the theme park all have this very cute double handed waving hand action which was really quite amusing.

As you can see...this show has helped to raise the country's profile a lot and has singlehandedly increased tourist revenue by heaps. At all the various filming locations, life-sized standies of the actors have been erected, with a brief signboard telling tourists about the particular scene which was shot at that location! It is as if the actors have been elevated to demigod status!

Unfortunately, we didn't manage to go to the border truce village of Panmunjom. I would have very much like to go there and have a tour of the de-militarized zone for myself. The world's last cold war frontier. It is scary to think that a modern bustling metropolis like Seoul lies well within the range of North Korean artillery.A typical public bus in Seoul

Taking a breather from skiing at the world famous Yongpyong Ski Resort - the site of many ski competitions and the winter olympics.