Monday 30 July 2012

A little video

Here's a little video I made about my trip to Jeong Dong Jin.

14 hours in JeongDongJin Part 3

After scoffing down my waffle and falling asleep in the cafe I decided to head off in the direction of the large cruise ship sitting atop a cliff. Since the weather was awful, and I was knackered, I decided to change my train ticket from overnight to early evening.

After this, I walked the short uphill distance up to the ship and paid my 5,000 won entry fee into the park. Surrounding the ship there are a few sculptures and gardens to walk around, and tourists are able to go into the ship to look out of the observation deck and eat in the restaurant. The ship is actually a (fairly) luxury resort.

The view was pretty good, and the sun finally came out once I was up there so things seemed to be turning around! I decided to try and order something in the revolving bar and waste some time gazing out at the view. By now it was (a little) past noon and I deemed it late enough to order myself a glass of wine! There was also ham, cheese and crackers on the menu so I got some of that too. It turned out to be a massive platter of stuff which I took my time over eating. The outer part of the circular bar slowly moved around and I stayed long enough to go full circle and enjoy the entire view!

It was also in the bar that I noticed my shoes were looking a little worse for wear. They were quite cheap and also pretty old. Walking around in the rain didn't do them much good and the soles were starting to come away. I was going to have to buy something else to protect my feet fairly sharpish. After my rest, eating, drinking and soaking up the view I headed back down to the ground floor to check out the other side of the park. 

As I wasn't sure of the bus times, was feeling too stingy to pay for a taxi and having a few hours still before my train I decided to walk back down the hill. Obviously it slipped my mind about my dodgy shoes. As I walked out of the resort complex the heel part of the right shoe fell completely off and dragged along the floor with every step. Hanging on by a tiny area at the front I continued downwards, remembering there were a couple of small shops at the foot of the hill. Soon, the other shoe went exactly the same way as the right one and I was dragging the soles of my shoes down the hill with me. I had visions of them completely falling off and me walking down in my socks. I can only imagine what the Korean couple walking behind me must have thought! Finally I reached a small shop where an ajumma informed me she had no shoes! How much longer could these shoes last?! In true Korean style there was another shop practically next door and the young man delighted in showing me the small choice of flip flops I could buy. I choose a bright yellow pair (why not eh?!). Upon purchasing them he asked if I wanted to keep my old shoes... I declined and threw them into his rubbish bin. 

Walk back to the train station along the beach, now bathed in sunlight, I was ready to leave Jeong Dong Jin, although had I been with friends, an afternoon messing around on the beach would have been fun. 

I'm very glad I made it to Jeong Dong Jin and got to see another great part of Korea, even if the weather didn't let me see my much anticipated sunrise!

Jeong Dong Jin. The true east.

Can you make out the cruise ship at the end of the tracks?

Someone had a heavy one last night!

Sun Cruise resort

Scoffing down some ham, cheese and crackers! Yum!

One too many soju shots!

My poor shoes

Finally the sun has his hat on!

Sitting at the train station, over-looking the beach with my new shoes

Pinocchio in the railway waiting room

How fantastic are Korean trains?!

Restaurant carriage on the train, complete with computers and video games!

Tuesday 24 July 2012


As I have mentioned before, buildings in Korea seem to be able to change overnight. It is also fairly well known how crowded this city is, and at what a premium space is. My apartment is tiny, as is most people's. My last tiny apartment was situated on the first (ground) floor and look out onto a small alley and another apartment building. Actually my window was covered with frosted privacy glass so actually looked onto nothing. I moved from this apartment because I wanted somewhere (Slightly) bigger, which was on a higher floor and had more natural light. My classroom is in the basement so I was bascially going between two caves. I was happy with the new apartment, it was on the 4th floor and the next building along was only one storey. I didn't have much of a view but there was natural sunlight coming in so that's all I was bothered about. It was also slightly bigger. 

In roughly Jan/Feb time this year, I noticed some builders were knocking down the old building outside my window. I watched as they demolished it, and started laying foundations. I was horrified as this new contruction took shape and began growing. Until it overtook my window and completely blocked my view. I also watched as the small gap between this new building and the love motel next to my apartment began to have builders on it too. They are in the process of laying foundations for another building there. Which, as I have observed from the front, makes the building behind mine completely closed in on all four sides. 

I know that is difficult to find places to live in Seoul, and I know it's a busy city and you expect to have a small living space. And I also know they these apartment will be rented/bought. But I can't imagine being particularly happy living in a tiny space with absolutely NO view or sunlight. How depressing! I know if I was staying for another year, despite it being a real pain and hassle, I would be searching for yet another new apartment with sunlight and some kind of view beyong a cement wall. 

When they started building I tried to take pictures of the progress so here is how my view has developed over the last few months.

Foundations in the basement. They constructed basement apartments with 0% view.

Tiny tiny spaces for apartment and bathroom. You can just about make out the wooden outline.


And then my view changed to this for several weeks

Until it was unveiled last week.

And they begun to build here, so soon my view will be completely gone.
And here is this week's. Complete with windows.

And more building in the space.

On a similar subject, and as I mentioned in my JeongDongJin posts, I have a huge fear of manniquins. So it's disconcerting in Korea driving around as road works usually have a mannequin directing traffic rather than a road worker. I realise this means they can have more people working and probably get the job done quicker, but it's a kind of weird thing to see on the road! Earlier this week I was walking to the subway from school and came across one such mannequin. I took a video to demonstrate just how creepy the sight is!

Monday 23 July 2012

14 hours in JeongDongJin Part 2

I sat in the train waiting room for a while, reading and watching people coming and going. It was coming up to 7am. Which felt more like lunchtime to me as I'd been at Jeong Dong Jin since 3.15am. I asked at the station desk about the bus to one of the main sights Unification Park (Tongil Gongwon).

Unification park is a small area by the sea where the Korean government have exhibited three sea faring vessels. All of them have some connection to North Korea. The largest is a warship, built in the US and used briefly in WWII, then the Korean War and the first Gulf War. The Korean Navy used the ship for 27 years until it was retired in 1999. It is (apparently) the only warship on display on land in the world. (Korea loves facts like this.) The second thing to see is a North Korean submarine, captured just off the coast of Jeong Dong Jin in 1996. It was making a reconnaissance mission and carried 25 'Red Guerrilla' from the DPRK. The vessel allegedly holds a maximun of 27, and I know that North Koreans are small, but having been inside I have no idea how these 25 men were able to function inside such a small space. I'm sure they must have accidentally hit a few switches when they were moving around! Finally there is a small wooden boat to see. This is the newest addition to the park, having been used in 2009. One night in September, 11 North Koreans entered the boat on their escape course to the south. It took them 4 days to get from Gimchaek City to Jumunjin (up the coast from Jeong Dong Jin.) It took them a year to organise the escape, of which I'm sure every day they were worried about being uncovered by the authorities and sent to a prison camp.
Before I could get to Unification Park however, I had half an hour to wait for the bus, so I headed to the bus stop to wait there. The rain was still coming down, and a swarm of Korean women wearing plastic raincoats were standing at the bus stop. No one was sitting down because the seats were wet, so I squeezed through and popped down my polystyrene seat-mat. (The best 2,000won I've ever spent!) I read for a little longer until the bus came. A fifteen minute bus ride later I arrived at Tongil Park, only to find the site empty and a sign saying opening time was 9.00am. Great! It was wet, cold and blustery! As I walked along the road to take a picture of the ship, I spied a car driving into the car park. So walking back in I knocked at the small ticket booth to beg a place to wait out of the rain. The lady inside took pity on me and I was soon sitting on the sofa with a small cup of coffee in my hand.

As I sat there, other workers began to filter in. A couple of guys in military uniforms walked past and a stern looking ajumma with a mop gave me the once over. I was lucky and the kind ticket lady let me go into the ship 1/2 hour before official opening time. Inside the empty warship, alone, it was pretty creepy. I have a huge fear of mannequins, seriously I really hate them and they scare me to death. So walking around the boat, I must have looked like sniper. I approached each window and room slowly, slowly inching in stealthily, to make sure there were no weird fake humans. I can happily report that there are no mannequins at the unification Park. ^.^

Inside the boat there are numerous displays but as the information is all in Korean, I whipped around pretty quickly (ok it was also because I'm a wimp and was scared). At the front of the boat, because this is Korea, there was a life-size picture of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the famous pose from Titanic, their faces removed so that you may recreate it yourself (from an ex-warship...?! Oh Korea.) The rain had started to drizzle again so I only spent a small amount of time on deck, my umbrella blowing inside out over and over.

Next I donned my hard hat to take a peek inside the submarine. Boy it's small in there! I almost didn't go all the way through because it made me feel a little claustrophobic, but after a stern word to myself 'Stop being such a wimp!' I squeezed through. The equipment was really old fashioned (I'm not sure if this is because it's from the 90s or because it is North Korean). I was at the end in about 30 seconds, and there was a definite lack of periscope. I was very disappointed about this! I even walked back through to double check I hadn't missed it. I'm not sure if there was another level in the sub, because there certainly didn't seem anywhere for the sailors to sleep or rest. 

The small wooden boat is not much to see, you can peer into the top window. But the size of the boat and the story behind it is more interesting than the vessel anyway.

Along to the end of the park was a large staircase leading to a military lookout tower. When I saw the soldiers walking along earlier, I assumed they worked at the park and were there to have your picture taken with, but then it dawned on me that this was a working military post and they were stationed there to make sure there were no more infiltrations from the north. A little reminder that tensions still exist between the two nations.

After my early morning sight seeing I made it back to the main town to hunt out some breakfast.

A little bit scared before going through the submarine

Old TVs

Hmm what's this?

The boat used by the North Korean defectors

Military Lookout at the top of the hill.

The best waffle I've ever eaten

My new panorama app on my phone.

The train station, right next to the sea

To read about part one of my Jeong Dong Jin Adventure click here