Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Korea Part 2

I haven't mentioned the mosque in Seoul. This mosque is the center for the Moslem enclave in Seoul. For the whole of Korea there are about 35,000 Moslems. This mosque in Seoul is located near another Moslem restaurant where we came for our dinner. The mosque is perched on a small hill and we had to walk slowly past it to reach the restaurant.

For the second day our itinerary was the much waited visit to Nami Island in Gangwon Province. The island was made famous by the television series Winter Sonata. It is popular even among Malaysians.
Before the departure we had breakfast at the hotel. For the first time I tasted Korean food and I fell in love with kimchi, which is cabbage pickled with chilli. I had some cereals and toasts too for good measure.

Beside kimchi, sea weeds and mushrooms are the other ingredient that I could identify.

Tuan Haji Shafie was caught buttering his toast.

Some of the ladies will not leave the hotel without having their photograph taken in front of it.
The ride to Nami Island was a good ride. There wasn't much incline for the bus to negotiate as many tunnels were built where hills were involved.
Though subways are available at about 12 meters underground, Korea is set to be underground highways at 60 meters deep. Did you hear that?
We reached the jetty at Nami Island. Since we were on a package tour, we did not need to buy the ticket which be considered as the Visa to enter the Republic of Nami.

Since you need a Visa to get there, you have to pass the immigration checkpoint where you have to show your ticket to the staff on duty.

The ferry to Nami Island has standing room only since the ride is only less than 10 minutes. Fortunately the idea to build a bridge to the island was scrapped as it would only lead to pollution. The only vehicle allowed on the islands are electric powered vehicles or mechanical contraption that require leg muscles to propel it.

A briefing about Nami Island upon arrival. We were told that the grave of General Nami after whom the island is named, is found on the island.

Not far from the jetty we saw a group of people in traditional costumes making offerings to the dead.

They were singing while accompanied to drum beats and a few other traditional instruments.

Lucy has decided that those couples in the group must make some form of proposal to their spouse. There were 5 couples in the group but only two couples were game enough to do it. One of the two couples is of course Pak Zawi and his wife Fatthiyah. The rest of the group were witnesses to the proposal. In Pak Zawi's proposal he gave Nami Island to his wife.

There is a 6 star hotel on Nami Island. It is the only 6 star hotel without any television in the hotel. After waiting for almost a year for it's rating from the Korean Tourism Authority without any response, the hotel management decided to award itself with a 6 star rating.

The hotel reception is set some distance away from the hotel thus guests staying at the hotel will not be bothered by people making room inquiries or when checking in.

The hotel from a distance.

There were lots of sculptures on the island. My guess is that these works of art were made from whatever remnants of construction left on it.
This one is made of wood.
While this one is made of steel plates.

The most photograph picture on the island is of course of the actor Bae Yong Jun and actress Choi Ji Woo. Most people would sit on the bench and be photographed against the backdrop of the actor and actresses.
In real life Bae Yong Jun was once a little Mafia terrorizing the neighborhood children. He changed his ways after gaining popularity as an actor. As a form of repentance, he employed the very people that he had bullied during his youth.

If you can't afford the 6 star hotel on Nami Island, you can always sleep in this thatched igloo like huts available not far from Nami Island Hotel.

Beside electric bicycles and tri cycles available for hire on the island, there are also quad cycles available. See how eco friendly is tourism in this Republic.

By noon we were done with Nami Island. While waiting for the ferry ride to the mainland, we did or Zohor and Asar prayers near the jetty.
A short bus ride took us to a Korean Restaurant for lunch. It was authentic Korean lunch and instead of grilled chicken we were served grilled fish with rice to ensure a truly halal meal. The restaurant owner and our local guide was so happy since we enjoyed the food served there. The restaurant owner was overjoyed when I mentioned in Korean 'Ma Sit Sum Ni Da' meaning 'It is delicious' some Korean words I picked up from the travel pamphlets.
After another long bus ride, we reached our hotel The Songtan Tourist Hotel loacated in Gyonggi-do Pyeongtaek City.

I like this hotel as it is quite comfortable with free internet connection. If you have no broadband cable, you can ask from the counter with a 3000 won returnable deposit. From now onward, I will not forget to bring along such a cable when I have my laptop with me on my travel.

For dinner, Lucy Kim the local guide had arranged for us the Japanese seafood restaurant.

This is what we had, some crabs, cuttle fish and whatever else to be shared among the four of us sitting cross legged around this low table. Noticeably absent is the octopus tentacles to be swallowed live as an authentic Japanese food.

Since there was ample time before breakfast is served at 7 AM, I took a walk around the hotel area to sample part of Pyeongtaek City.

Sign of the French influence in Korea, a French bakery.

I saw workers cleaning up the streets after a street market the night before. Look, the workers had to run to keep up with the vehicles which moved ahead to the next pick up point. That way no time is lost for the workers to hitch on the vehicle since it was a short distance away.

City taxis waiting for customers. Luxurious Koreans vehicles were used.

This street was a busy street market in the evening.

Hang Ten, the brand that I used to wear when I was living in Labis Johor in the 70's. The material is of a very good quality.

Free newspapers on a lamp pole.

A luxury car parked so close to the railway line. I guess this line is not in use anymore.

Branded goods.
By 7 AM I was back for breakfast at the hotel. Lucy Kim told us that in Korea labour is scarce and we have to send our used dishes after use. Non of us remembered to do that and Lucy reminded us after that.
Labour (cheap labour) is scarce in Korea. In all of Korea only about 30,000 expatriates are available. Compare that to the millions that we have in Malaysia.

Lucy Kim, our guide and Pae Yun Jun, her assistant cum cameraman, joined us for breakfast. Pae used to work elsewhere before earning about 1.7 million Won (equivalent to RM5,000) a month which is a very low income in Korea and will not be sufficient to make ends meet.

I saw a stair leading up to the hotel rooftop so I sneaked up to shoot some photograph and video of the city from the roof top.

Before boarding the bus for our visit to Everland theme park, I saw these 3 girls from our group posing for the camera. We the elderly were perplexed as to what they were doing. They were making the heart sign as a symbol of love with their hands.
Everland, here we come! This guy was directing our bus to head for the bus parking lot quite a distance away. Only cars were allowed to be parked near the entrance to the park. From the bus parking areas, shuttle buses will take us to the entrance.

Queuing to ride the shuttle bus.

The main entrance to the park.

A huge colorful tree greeted us upon entering the main entrance. Upon checking, the tree was a synthetic tree so the colors will remain throughout the four seasons.

Any way the flowers in the planter box at the base of the tree are real flowers.
The first thing we were shown was the landmark building where we must gather at 1.30 PM at the end of the visit to the park.

We rode the cable cars to get down to the area where the action is.

The highest roller coaster as seen from the cable cars. This roller coaster is of course not recconmended for the faint hearted elderly people like me.
We took another bus ride to visit the zoo within the park compound. Unlike our Zoo Negara, the animals here are not caged up. They have ample space to roam like they do in nature. Only difference is that they are fed.

Some Siberian Tigers.
Beside the tigers we saw some bears, lions, giraffe and elephants. The most exciting was of course the ligers which was a cross between the Lion and the tiger.
Next we were taken on a water ride which simulate the raft ride on a fast flowing river of the Amazon. It was quite fun. Before we were allowed to see the rest of the park on our own, we were taken to see a 3D movie. The characters seemed to come close at us as if they were the real thing and our bodies moved in tune to the movement on the screen.It was an experience that first timers like me enjoyed immensely.

Waiting to enter the 3D cinema hall.
Then we were free to roam on our own. Since no lunch were provided, we had to survive on whatever we carried in our lunch pack. Most of us brought along instant mee in cups where only hot water need to be added to give us instant noodles.

The cascading water wall.

The Four Seasons Garden in full bloom.
The rose garden near where we had some bread for lunch and did our Zohor and Asar prayers to the stares of passerby.
There is a lot more to see and experience in Everland but being a hot day, we now crave to be back in our air conditioned bus to head back to Seoul City.
We did not head directly to our hotel but instead we were taken to another part of Seoul for a bit more shopping while waiting for an early dinner at the restaurant near to the mosque in the top picture above.
It was already dark when we checked in at our hotel. My friend David had come to the hotel earlier and the reception had told him that our group would be checking in at 9.00 PM. By a twist of fate the lift we were in didn't stop at my floor and we somehow were brought back to the lobby and when the lift door opened, there I saw David talking to the receptionist. My one wish to meet David Ritchie in person in Seoul was fulfilled. After sending my wife to our hotel room, David and me adjourned for a cup of coffee at Starbuck not far from hotel Stay Seven where we were to stay for the night.
While surfing for more information about Winter Sonata, I was shocked to learn from the internet that Park Yong-Ha another actor who shot to fame from the TV series Winter Sonata was found dead from an apparent suicide at his mothers home in Seoul some 2 hours ago.

Friday, June 25, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

The banner that says 'Do you wait for a by election then only you overcome the people's problem'

The section of the road is covered with some plastic sheet.

Both ends of the road are designated as no entry but those living along the road still use it non the less. What choice have they?

On a biking ride around Pasir Mas 2 days ago I was curious to find out how bad was the part section of the road along the Kelantan River bank that caved in several months ago. I have not used that road ever since the cave in since that road was made a no entry to all vehicles. This road was a favorite for those who want to escape the jam in town during a holiday.
When I came to the section I saw the above banner that reflects the feeling of those people living along that stretch of road. Yes the helplessness of it as no remedial work was done to rebuild that section of the road to make it reusable again or at least prevent further cave in when the monsoon comes again at the end of the year.
I will not dwell on the cause of the cave in. some says it was due to the extensive sand mining going on along the length of the Kelantan river while others say the substandard work on the interlocking steel piling could be the cause. For those who doesn't know, along the length of the river, interlocking steel piles were driven into the soil and the top was set in concrete to prevent erosion to the river bank during the monsoon season. Such causes are mere speculation as no such report has been made public.
The message in Bahasa Melayu was subtle and was meant for the people in authority to do something. No specific authority was mentioned be it the local authority, the State Government or the Federal Government. From the wordings I guess anyone will do as long as it gets done. It seems that a by election is the best thing to happen as immediate allocation and approval seems to be available as happened previously in the country's recent history. A case in mind is the Sibu by election whereby more than RM37 million was promised and partly disbursed. Well it maybe a different scenario here as the one in Sibu was purported to be allocated far in advance before the by election. Maybe the authorities that be has the foresight that a by election was pending.
I guess a similar allocation should be made available for this constituency be it by the State or Federal as the people along this stretch of road must have been praying for a by election to occur as soon as possible by whatever means. Short of saying that divine intervention as most welcome, a resignation by one of the two representative be it the state or the parliament will do as fine.
Thank God no life was lost in the mishap. Must we wait for lives to be lost before something is done?