Sunday, May 22, 2016

Samgyup in Bupyeong

Went for dinner and drinks with Yongin roomies Andy and Max along with old pal Eric in Andy's stomping grounds these days well west in Bupyeong. I had never seen this area, really, but was less surprised than I would have been a few years ago to see it has a very busy "eating street".

We sat for a few beers at "gong-cha" in the alley next to a convenience store then found a place with all-you-can-eat samgyupsal (fat back pork) for 10 bucks a head (though some of the banchan was an extra 1000 W for seconds). Still a bargain. Look at the meat, it is particularly thick, which makes it, as Max pointed out, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, if cooked properly.

And, here's the most unusual thing: a relatively common thing in restaurants in the West, and an occasional thing in Western restaurants in the East, but the four of us agreed we'd never seen the massive pepper grinder shtick in a Korean restaurant!

We went to a batting cage for a bit after dinner, and I have to say that while I was no Baroombah, I made contact 80% of the time--the new lenses are definitely working!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

FC Seoul vs Pohang

On the final day of my Spring Break, Sunday, I went to Seoul World Cup Stadium at Sangam. I arrived well early, not much of a crowd in evidence, buying a ticket around 12:30 for the 2:00 start, being sure to specify an aisle seat as close to the bench area as possible (section F, 20,000 W).

Then I went to the GS 25 and had a couple of beers before dropping by The Fan Zone where they have installed a trophy room:

Outside, one of the stars, Osmar, defensive midfielder from Spain, was signing autographs in his street clothes. Odd. He didn't play, still don't know why.

Anyway, I made my way to my seat, to find it was not in fact an aisle seat, as promised. My mood was not improved by the story of the match: though FC Seoul controlled the ball most of the game, they were down two-nil at halftime, and lost three-one. Here's the kick-off:

On my way out, I stopped at the ticket office to complain about my bad seat, and was given a free ticket to the same section at the next home game. So that's pretty good customer service, if somewhat belated. Fortunately, I'll be able to attend--May 22nd, if anyone wants to join me.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Children's Day 2016

Bugaksan provides a striking background during a visit to the downtown Jongno district of Seoul. Thursday was Children's Day, and Jongno is the place to go to see the festivities. This year, not a lot was going on at the Cheonggyecheon:

One feature along the walls of the stream are a long series of painted tiles (supposedly the longest work of its kind in the world) which depict a visit by King Jungjo to Hwaseong fortress, based on a painting by one of Korea's great artists, Kim Hongdo. I have below juxtaposed the "money shot" with a similar representation in lantern.

The other key gathering place is Gwanghwamun Plaza, which I visited with old pal Helen in 2014, when technically Children's Day was cancelled following the Sewol Ferry disaster. This year, the area in front of Admiral Yi is dedicated to the memory of the children who died that day during school trips to Jeju-do.

There are lots of activities designed for children.

There were also a few performance art installations, such as this mystical egg nursery, visited by playful dino-lizard creatures who took some time to menace small children:

People were fascinated by this guy, who seemed frozen in place all day long. I tried to wake him up.

My Spring Break activities will conclude on Sunday with my first trip of the season to watch FC Seoul play at Sangam World Cup stadium. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Tuttle Travels To Buyeo 부여

... with his pal The Stumbler. Our bus departed from Nambu Bus terminal at 9:30 on the dot and arrived in the small town south of Seoul a little under two hours later. The first site to visit is Jeongnimsa Temple in the downtown area, fifteen minutes from the bus terminal.

There are two key things to see at Jeongnimsa, plus a lotus pond--the lotus is a key flower of the area, and the Buddhist culture of the Baekje 백제 era (one of the so-called "three kingdoms" of Korea's ancient times).

The five-storied stone pagoda was built in the sixth century, and represents the epitome of Baekje pagodas, repeated throughout the period and found all around Chungcheongnam-do. Inside the temple sixty meters away is situated a large stone Buddha that faces the pagoda. It was constructed for the temple originally built in the sixth century and reconstructed by Goryeo four hundred years later.

Down the street and to the left of the temple is a very nice (free) museum, the National Museum of Buyeo. The museum has artifacts from prehistory to the Baekje period and the Buddhist culture of Baekje. Here are some tools and pottery, including a you-know-what-shaped jar handle, and a piece of "found art", scratched onto a roof tile by a worker. The last is a mold of a giant Buddhist frieze, with The Stumbler to provide scale.

Pottery is a key artifact of any society, Korea being famous for delicate blue-green Celadon, for example. The piece de resistance of the Baekje period in Buyeo is this beautifully detailed gilt-bronze incense burner in the shape of a lotus blossom beginning to open.

Speaking of lotuses, as I have twice, the famous food of Buyeo is a dish called yeonnipbap 연잎밥, seasoned rice cooked in lotus leaves. By now it was around two o'clock, and we made our way back into town to partake in this much-lauded nourishment. For being so famous, it was actually a challenge to find a place that specialized in yeonnipbap, but we hit the jackpot, with an awesome spread for 13,000 W, polished off with a lotus blossom tea.

We took a taxi about six clicks out of town to Neungsan-ri 능산리, site of Baekje era royal burial mounds. Most of the mounds and their artifacts were destroyed during the Japanese colonial period, but there is a nice interpretive center. In the second two shots, The Stumbler is again providing scale.

Busosanseong 부소산성 was the last site on the agenda, but it was approaching 4:00 and our bus was departing at 5:00--on the dot. Everything was uphill at Busosanseong, the ancient fortress of Sabi (the old name for Buyeo). One element of the site was 250 m from the entrance, and every other one was at least one kilometer away. It is Samchungsa, built as a shrine to three loyal subjects of Baekje, the period that lasted from around the time of Christ to the seventh century.

One lesson to learn from our otherwise fun and interesting visit to this fine little historical town is a matter of order. I had actually debated which direction to go, since both Busosanseong and the Jeongnimsa temple/Buyeo Museum were within walking distance of the bus terminal, just in opposite directions. I would do it the other way round, now, since we simply ran out of gas/time by the time we got to the fortress area.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tuttle Goes to LotteWorld

With a twenty percent discount by bringing my passport to prove I am a foreigner (!), the regular one-day ticket to LotteWorld is 38,400 W. A one-day ticket today just for Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is USD 110. Crunching the numbers, this means that LotteWorld is only 30% as expensive as the Magic Kingdom. Which is appropriate, because it's only 1/3 as good.

But I didn't really go around comparing the two--that wouldn't be fair. But there were definitely rides that invite comparison, about which more in a moment. The park is actually in parts, the "Magic Island", which is outdoors (as seen above), and "Adventure Land" which is indoors (as seen below):

Like at Disney, there are periodic parades. It seemed to me that many of the "cast members" are foreigners. Most guests, of course, are Koreans, including this couple on the walkway over the highway to Magic Island:

The first thing I did (because there were about three people in line) was a shooter called 3D Desperados, on an Old West theme where you wear 3D glasses, sit on a bucking saddle and pop the bad guys. I came in second out of about ten people.

This reminded me that I wanted to do some 3D stuff now that I don't have to fiddle with regular glasses. I did another shooter on a knights and dragons theme and the "dynamic theatre" experience, which was called "Dracula 4D", but should have been called "Dracula 4 minutes and thirty seconds" because that's how long it lasted. The story line was silly but the 3D graphics were very good. The best of the 3Ds was the Ghost House, in a stationary seat with an all-too-short but very good immersive exit. You the viewer are a cat exploring a really creepy haunted house with apparitions, Undead baby dolls and teddy bears, bats flying at you, scary spiders with glowing abdomens, etc. It was scary enough that two kids had to leave during the course of it--this one was twelve minutes or so (plus the exit). A much better return on the same 20 minute waiting time as Dracula.

Lines in the morning were pretty reasonable, but the park became much more crowded in the afternoon, and I didn't want to go on the really popular rides anyway. I'm pretty much over roller-coasters and I did the drop thing at Universal Studios where they call it The Tower of Terror. A couple of things were closed "for inspection" but I was disappointed that the Monorail, which goes all the way around the park, was shuttered. And for not a good reason considering the weather was utter perfection:

A children's ride called Fantasy Dream is essentially LotteWorld's "It's A Small World" ride. On the downside, it didn't have a catchy tune repeated over and over, but on the plus side, it didn't have a catchy tune repeated over and over. You enter through the clown's mouth.

The Adventure of Sinbad is LotteWorld's Pirates of the Caribbean, and it was pretty good. but nothing can hold a candle to the original.

There is, needless to say, a large number of shops and restaurants. But they offered a wider selection of goods and food than I was expecting. I had a slice of bacon cheddar and a beer (Kloud, Lotte's own brand) for 8,700 W. Later, I had another beer from a stall. The cup filled from the bottom!

The last thing I did, other than buying a delicious strawberry smoothie, was to visit the "trompe l'oeil" art gallery. It wasn't as good as others I've seen, but I got one pic:

So, that's my first day of "Spring Vacation". Depending on weather and other factors, I may not blog my other activities as quickly as I did today, but check back soon!