Kwik Korean Kontingency

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Yogyesa Temple readying itself for the upcoming Buddha’s Birthday in a couple of weeks.

Planning a trip anywhere is never without much thought, planning and decisions to be made like how, when and where to go, see and do with your short amount of time. This was a quick trip (only 9 days) that was primarily geared for a traditional tourist type of itinerary for a group of 8 casual travelers with varied interests yet willingness to stay together for the most part. What to do?

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Old and new … from Bukchon Hanok Village, the N Seoul Tower can be seen.

Stay in the city, get in as much local culture and food as possible. That was the name of the game in Seoul. Staying true to this type of itinerary and getting any kind of shots (photos) of interest was not an easy task as wandering around is typically done during the non-opportune time for the best photography. This set has the look and feel of the typical tourist captures as it was a hectic “on the move” program.

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Changing of the guard at the Gyeongbokbung Palace

In Seoul, there are many things little nooks and crannies in the various areas – all virtually the same, but different with their own vibe. Markets upon markets as well as cultural venues dating back hundreds of years. Making our way a bit out of the city to the northern border is the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. The DMZ is roughly located along the 38th Parallel of the world and is famously known as the most militarily sensitive zone in the world. Whether it was all true or just total hype, adherence to the Guide’s strict commands rung through very clear. No pictures whatsoever in most of the areas of the DMZ or the Joint Security Area (JSA) – one of which I really didn’t see the sensitivity. They did, however, paint a pretty serious attitude during the tour. My take on it is … if the area were THAT serious in nature, why construct tours and tell us we can’t take pictures in the first place? Seemed to be hyped a bit IMO, but without really knowing, you just have to take it at face value and play along.

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The aggressive stance of the S. Korean Soliders on watch at the JSA across a fenceless border b/n the two territories – building in background is in N. Korea.

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Courtyard of the Rakkojae traditional Hanok in Bukchon.

One of the highlights in the city was the Noryangjin Fish Market, unlike the famous one in Tokyo, as you wandered around the market, upon buying your seafood, they quickly shuttle you off to a restaurant area out back where it would be prepared for you anyway you liked – we chose sashimi and BBQ’d. A bit of a tourist trap, but the experience was worth the price of admission and the seafood was pretty darn tasty!

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Noryangjin Fish Market is a seafood lovers delight.

Getting out of the city and heading south to the island of Jeju for a couple of days proved to be the right choice as the concrete jungle of Seoul was looking the same after a while. Jeju island, sometimes known as the Hawaii of S. Korea. The nature beauty of Jeju was apparent, but also were the many cheesy tourist attractions/traps that had little or nothing to do with the local culture. If you can get passed all of that, the island had a special relaxed vibe and was a nice break for the city.

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Lights of Seoul from my hotel room of the N Seoul Tower

Before going over, I committed to learning a few basic words in Korean (like hello, goodbye, thank you, please, restroom, how much, too expensive, and a few numbers for bargaining). What I didn’t expect was how much my limited (and very bad BTW) Mandarin would come in handy.

Below are some of the places visited on Jeju Island …

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The Dol Hareubang guardian keeps watch.

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Seongeuop Folk Village

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Yakcheon Temple – lanterns for Buddha’s Birthday

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The naturally carved out Manjang Caves bored by raging lava.

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Low tide below the ominous Seongsan Ilchulbang Crater – a place where woman divers can be found.

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Jeongbang falls

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Jusangjeoli Cliffs formed by volcanic lava and the raging sea.

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Jeongbang falls spilling into the ocean

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Cheongjeyeon Falls

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