25 May 2009

Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju, South Korea) on 22-25 May 2009

Source and photos: http://horizons.free.fr/seikatsu/eng/memories/2009-05-23_kr-gyeongju.htm

Rest house at a distance at 남산 (Namsan) I travelled to 경주 (Gyeongju, South Korea) for the second time on 22 May 2009 to visit 불국사 (Bulguksa temple), which is a UNESCO world heritage, and hike at 남산 (Namsan) with Olga and Yerbol, two friends studying in the region. Clouds hovered over the region but the weather remained pleasant.

I appreciated the local historical assets and traditional ambiance but was surprised by the distances: one may see much with a bicycle in two days. However, I was slightly disappointed as I expected older, bigger and more numerous touristic sites because several Japanese friends had compared the city to 京都 (Kyoto, Japan); Koreans indicated that the area would be markedly more attractive had Japan not damaged or destroyed so much during wars and occupations... From another perspective, I also enjoyed unique coffee shops, delicious restaurants and, as we kept on bumping into acquaintances of Olga and Yerbol, a countryside atmosphere in which all people seemed to know each other.

The air, ambiance and smaller crowds agreeably contrasted with my everyday life in 서울 (Seoul, South Korea). For newcomers, two or three full days seem appropriate to discover the historical sites and enjoy the city, with one or two additional days for hikes. I will gladly return there to complete my visit and explore 남산 (Namsan) from another side.

17 May 2009

Trip to 천안 (Cheonan, South Korea) on 17 May 2009

Source and photos: http://horizons.free.fr/seikatsu/eng/memories/2009-05-17_kr-cheonan.htm

Panorama with 겨레의 탑 (Monument to the Nation) at 독립기념관 (Independence Hall of Korea) I travelled to 천안 (Cheonan, South Korea) for the first time on 17 May 2009 to visit 외암민속마을 (Oeam folk village) and 독립기념관 (Independence Hall of Korea) in company of 진영 (Jin-young) and 현진 (Hyunjin), two locals. The weather was warm but unfortunately cloudy most of the day.

I enjoyed the trip much as I had never visited a traditional village in South Korea before; it differed in many respects from 白川郷 (Shirakawa-go, Japan), which I visited in 2006 (see Post 06 August 2006): buildings are lower, roofs flatter, and walls along paths more numerous. As for the memorial hall, it was impressive for its hugeness, the beauty of some buildings, the peacefulness of the natural surroundings, and for troubling historical presentations including torture scenes and human-scale models of executions of Koreans by Japanese soldiers. Such crudeness reminded me of 서대문형무소 (Seodaemun Prison, South Korea) in 서울 (Seoul), something I have never witnessed in public spaces outside South Korea.