Damascus: Palace, Syrian Honesty, Cheats and Barbershops

Date: April 3, 2011

Minaret of Umayyad Mosque

One of the Minarets of the Umayyad Mosque

I woke up really late on April 3rd and washed my clothes, so it was about 12 by the time I got out. Today was the first day I had an agenda. The plan was to visit a couple of paid attractions in town before heading out to Bosra, a city about 2 hrs away from Damascus. 3rd being Sunday and therefore a working day here, I thought the Citadel might be open but it was still closed. I guess it hasn’t been opened up to visitors yet. What the visitor’s office is for I’ll never know.

The Courtyard of the Azem Palace

The Courtyard of the Azem Palace

Next in line was the Azem Palace, which was the palace of the old Ottoman Pasha of Damascus. It was beautiful, sure. But not worth the 150 SYP entrance fee if you ask me. In one of the rooms an employee approached me. Curiously, he addressed me in a mixture of Arabic, English and French. But we managed to communicate somehow. (Also, I noticed that most of the signs in the palace were in Arabic and French only)

Pakistan?”
No. India
“Al Hind! Ahlan Wasahlan. Welcome to Syria Damascus.”
Shukran.”
“Photo? Okay.”
“What about the sign?”
Pour les etrangeres. Les occidentals.” (For the foreigners. The westerners)
He also tried explaining some of the exhibits. He was especially proud of the musical instruments. And then when I was done, that’s when it came. I was expecting it.
Baksheesh?
“No money. Pas d’argent. Student”

Another “Ahlan Wasahlan” and a smile. That was refreshing. You refuse baksheesh in India you get a glare and probably a gaali. You refuse baksheesh here, and you get a smile?

Azem Palace: The Way Out

Azem Palace: The Way Out

I had also been hearing a lot about the honesty of Syrians. Restaurants leave their chairs and tables outside at night, people leave their things in cafes only to return hours later and still find them there, etc etc. So I decided to test this by leaving my camera case in the Azem Palace. I should probably add that this “decision” was purely subconscious. Anyway, when I went back and asked around, the camera case was waiting for me in the Manager’s office with an accompanying smile.

Minaret of Umayyad Mosque

One of the Minarets of the Umayyad Mosque

My shoes were quite literally falling apart, so I found a cobbler to have them mended. I gave him 500 and he wouldn’t give me any change! After a lot of angry gesturing he gave me back a 100 but refused to budge beyond that. I was furious and disheartened. I mean, 400 for some glue and a few stitches! You penny pinch and save and all that but then one asshole like this comes along and wallops your budget right out of the stadium. Quite ironic after the incident at the Azem palace!

Ruins at the Entrance to the Hamidiyeh Souq

Ruins at the Entrance to the Hamidiyeh Souq

Anyway, I walked around, had some shawarma (pieces of chicken, pickles and some salad rolled in a flatbread) and a halawa-bi-jibn (a sweet) and half-heartedly tried to find the bus station for Bosra, but then gave up and took a bus back to Bab Touma instead. I needed a haircut so I walked into a barbershop that Mustafa frequented.

Shawarma

Shawarma

He took great care, spent a lot of time, used various different instruments and was quite precise. He then had his assistant shampoo and dry my hair, and proceeded to style them with a blowdryer and a little roller thingy. I had my hair styled!
I discovered that this is quite regular for Arab men. Now this might make me look obsessed with the Damascenes’ looks, but so are they so I guess it’s fair enough. Barbershops here are scattered all around, and they are always a buzz of activity. Men (yes, men) visit barbershops frequently just to get their hair styled! No wonder you can see them all walking around with carefully manicured beards and hair sculpted with atomic precision. All this attention to appearance here might seem vain, but when the result is pleasing to the eye, who cares, really?

A View of the "New City" of Damascus

A View of the "New City" of Damascus

Okay that’s it. I’m not talking about looks on this blog anymore. I had a wonderful but expensive early dinner with Mustafa in the Grape Leaves Restaurant (I guess this wasn’t a good day for my budget), headed back home to watch some videos on his computer and then to the charming Dome Café run by a very friendly guy for some internet. I needed to write and I can focus more in a cafe than at home.

The day’s expenses:

  • Entrance Fees: 150
  • Pomegranate Juice: 50
  • Shoe Repain Rip-off: 400
  • Shawarma: 50
  • Halawa-bi-jibn: 25
  • Bus: 10
  • Haircut + Shave: 250
  • Dinner: 150

Total: 1085 SYP (Approx. 1000 INR/22.8 USD)

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Damascus: St. Paul, St. Thomas and the Most Expensive Piss in the World

Date: 2nd April 2011

This was the day of the World Cup final so obviously, my job was to find a place that showed the match. That proved to be futile however, so I headed to an internet place where I was able to catch the match streaming.

It's easy (and fun!) to get lost in the old city's myriad alleyways

A Street in the Old Town

In between sessions I walked around town, visited some of the same places I went to yesterday, and explored more of the narrow old town alleys. I saw the chapel of St. Paul and the chapel of some other dude who gave him back his eyesight. Okay I should probably narrate that story as it is a very important chapter in Christian history, and it all happened right here in Damascus. So here’s what happened –

Saul was a Jew who was getting bored of whipping the newly converted Christians in Jerusalem so, looking for a change in his routine he decided to go whip some christians in Damascus instead. On the road to Damascus, God came down to earth with his System Of A Down “tribute” *cough*COVER*cough* band and serenaded Saul with the line from Chop Suey – “Why have you forsaken me?”, and quite casually blinded him with his heavenly light.

Now this is where Saul’s behaviour is a bit difficult to understand. You see, if someone had made me blind, I’d be like “Oy! You there! Who do you think you are? It’s terribly inconvenient without eyes, you know? BAD GOD. BAD.” and probably give Him a piece of my mind. But no, not good old Saul. He, as was fashionable in those days, switched allegiance and started preaching the word of God and His son Jesus, who at that time was still relatively unknown but soon to be almost as popular as the Beatles (Lennon’s words, not mine). Saul then proceeded to Damascus, where he got his eyesight back after three days, and became St. Paul. Here’s a link to a less childish version of the story.

Snacks at a vendor in the Souq

Roadside snacks: "One-ty five for one. Special price for you, only one-ty"

It might also interest you to know that Christianity apparently came to India from Syria. But it wasn’t St. Paul, it was St. Thomas of “Doubting Thomas” fame who carried it with him. And you thought YOUR backpack was heavy. “Ha!”.

This day too, as the day before, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty the women in Damascus are. Apparently, looks are really important here and even the women that wear the hijab are very well made-up. Now the previous day, while walking around I had zero eye contact. I thought this was strange, because I do stand out here. I haven’t seen any South Asians here yet, so I’m typically the brownest on any street. I’m even more conspicuous than the Scandinavian blondes with their ample SLR-laden bosoms. Okay, maybe not more than them, but you get my point. Anyway, this day, I had eye contact all over the place. I swear the only difference was that I had shaved. I was wearing the same clothes and the same hair. So here’s a tip for the single and ready to mingle travellers – Groom well!

Al Hamidiyeh Souq in Damascus: Back in Action after the Friday holiday

Al Hamidiyeh Souq: Back in Action after the Friday holiday

I also had today what might just be the most expensive piss in the world. 25 Syrian Pounds for a piddle in a public toilet. Now, I might be mistaken, but as far as I remember it was 25p in London and a quarter in the US to use the public “restrooms”. And here in Damascus it’s over half a dollar!

Old houses in Damascus: probably not structurally the strongest, but at least they look nice!

Old Houses is Damascus, just outside the city walls.

The souqs were open for business, so I bought some almonds and cashews, did window shopping and drank tea with the carpet sellers. I also had my first Nargileh (sheesha). It was expensive, but I felt it was worth it. Plus the setting was lovely; Al Nawfara behind the Umayyad mosque, while the famous storyteller of Damascus was reading a story to an enthralled audience (in Arabic, unfortunately). The sheesha was accompanied by Kamun, a kind of hot jaljeera-like drink.

The Al Nawfara coffee shop in Damascus

The Al Nawfara coffee shop in Damascus

Later that night we stepped out of the city walls and into the “new” city for a brief glimpse and some crepes, before returning home. Now a couple of things happened that day which I won’t mention now, but I’ll write about them once I’m out of Syria. But at least we won! Even though I didn’t watch most of the match, I was there for the final sixer! Kudos to the Indian team, they had at least one supporter in Damascus 🙂

Walls of the Damascus Citadel at night

Walls of the Damascus Citadel at night

The day’s expenses:

  • Coffee: 75 (Free internet)
  • Lunch: 150 (Free internet)
  • Piss: 25
  • Dry Fruits: 125
  • Snacks: 25
  • Sheesha and Kamun: 175
  • Internet: 40
  • Dinner (Crepe+Drinks): 60

Total: 675 SYP (Approx 650 INR or 14.5 USD)

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Damascus: History, Souqs, Tea and People-Watching

Date: 1st April 2011

To Damascus, years are only moments, decades are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise, and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality

– Mark Twain

The exterior walls of the Damascus Citadel

Statue of Saladin beyond the exterior walls of the Damascus Citadel (which is closed to the public)

Many people asked me when they first heard of my plans – “Why Syria?”. Well, Twain answers that question far better than I ever can. Really, Damascus is THAT old. I’m not going to quote statistics here, you can read them in Wikipedia. But I can tell you that one gets a very medieval feel while walking down the narrow, twisting alleyways and stone- paved streets of the old city. Of course, the Hyundais, Skodas, Ladas, Dacias and Geelys dampen this feeling a little but that is the price one must pay for “progress”. Although how Ladas and Dacias count as progress is beyond me. Geely, on the other hand, will soon take over the world, just you wait and watch.

So 1st April was Friday (the Syrian weekend is Friday and Saturday) and everyone was very tense about what would happen after the Friday prayers; people congregate on Fridays to pray together and given the current situation “only Allah knows what would happen afterwards”. So the prudent thing to do was to stay indoors till about 3 PM, watch the news and assess the situ.

It was a bit frustrating, as it was my first day in a new city and all I wanted to to was set out and explore, but it was all good, as I got time to connect with my host and his house-mates, partake in what was a fabulous breakfast meal, cooked by Mustafa. I got some understanding into what life in Syria was all about, made a fool of myself and caused a lot of amusement when I was asked to write down the Hindi alphabet, and picked up some Arabic pronunciation tips.

A Syrian Breakfast

A sumptuous breakfast/lunch with my host. Notice the bottle of home-made olive oil?

One of the guys in the centuries old house is an Iraqi, studying in Damascus, the other is a Syrian Orthodox Christian from Aleppo and another is a guy born to a Cuban father and an Iraqi mother in Bulgaria. Overall we had a great time, between cigarettes, tea and the fabulous meal we just had. The prepared dishes (meat and eggs, meat and tomatoes, some green thingy (zatar) bathed in olive oil, a butter/yougurt/cheese thingy (also topped with lots of olive oil) are kept in the center, everyone picks up a bread which is like a HUGE chapatti and digs it. Fun!

Two things to note here – The amount of sugar that goes in one glass of tea (milk-less, btw) is enough to sweeten the tea of a small village. And you thought Indian streetside tea was too sweet. Ha! I’ll repeat, in case you missed it the first time. “Ha!”. The other is that it seems that everyone here smokes. At least the men do. It is still not very halal for women to smoke cigarettes so they restrict themselves to Nargileh (hookah).

I don't understand it, but I love how beautiful it looks!

A beautiful sign over what seems to be a hotel.

One of the first things I noticed when I entered the streets of Damascus was how incredibly good looking the young people are. Everyone (women AND men) is dressed to the nines, well kempt/made up ALL THE TIME! There are statistically no homeless in Syria and I saw only two women asking for alms in the two days that I have been walking around town, and even they were both covered from head to toe in the crispest, cleanest and the most crease-free black cloth you have ever seen.

We were walking down straight street (from the latin Via Recta – recta means straight; get your mind out of the gutter) and there was a guy standing by the side of the road – probably in his early twenties, very well dressed, accessorised, good looking etc. He wouldn’t have been out of place on a ramp or a music video somewhere, just as he was dressed then. And then he picks up a bag lying beside him and offers to polish our shoes. He was a shoeshine boy. You get my point? Astounding.

Now, the good looks that the youngsters are endowed with makes it all the more stark how – how shall I put this – “un-good looking” the middle aged people are. Something starts to go horribly wrong when they reach the age of 35 and by 45 the damage is complete.

Park near Bab Touma

A New Park near Bab Touma (St. Thomas' Gate)

Anyway, enough with vanity. I should probably mention that the old city is really well preserved, in spite of the fact that it is a living, breathing city where thousands of people still live in ramshackle centuries old houses and where life goes on as usual with or without the tourists, unlike the “old cities” of Latin America (Antigua, can you hear me?) that, lovely as they are, seem to be almost entirely tourist oriented.

Mustafa was free and took over the day’s agenda, and I was happy to follow him around as he led me through lanes merely a metre wide, under splendid old Roman arches, around toppled Corinthian columns and “Babs” (gates) of the old city. Bab Touma (St. Thomas Gate) and our old friend Sharky Bob are particularly impressive samples of the remaining gates. Of the ramparts (walls – damn the English) not much remains but from the glimpses of the parts that remain you can tell that they were once formidable.

One of the very few shops that were open that day in the Souq

One of the very few shops that were open that day in the Souq

We stopped at the famous Ice-cream maker Bakdash in the Al Hamidiyeh souq the rest of which, along with other souqs was closed for the holy day. Bakdash is famous for its ice-cream, considered the best in the Middle-East and has been featured in numerous travel shows, including Globe Trekker.

Interior of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus

Interior of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus

A curious little incident took place when we entered the old (and huge!) Umayyad Mosque. Mustafa of course, enters without hindrance, but one of the guards stops me.

“Where are you from?”

“India”

“Are you muslim?”

“No”

“Then you must buy a ticket. The counter is that way.”

Of course we didn’t go “that way”. We skirted around the monument and entered through another gate where the same dialogue was repeated, only this time, instead of “no“, I said “yes“, and entered unmolested. Cheap? Perhaps. Unethical? Maybe. But I hate discriminatory pricing and I bypass it wherever I can. I have done it before in Latin America (Guatemala, Colombia, etc), Sri Lanka and Myanmar and I’ll do it again.

Anyway, Umayyad mosque is Islam’s first great mosque. Before that, it was a Church and even before that a temple of Jupiter and well before that a temple to the Aramaic God Hadad. Phew!

We went out into the “new city” for a while, paused at a cafe for some internet for a couple of hours and ended the day with a Lebanese Shawarma and a well-earned beer (also Lebanese) each.

Bab Touma at Night

Bab Touma (St. Thomas' Gate) at Night

The day’s expenses:

  • Chocolate Bread – 25
  • Ice Cream (2) – 100
  • Cafe – 100
  • Shawarma – 80

Total: 305 SYP (Approx. 300 INR or 6.7 US$)

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The Challenge Begins! Mumbai-Damascus

Date: 31st March, 2011

So it begins. After months of planning and dreaming, the moment has arrived. I got free from work, with a relieving letter and everything, on the evening of 29th March, I took a train (2nd class sleeper, of course) to Pune from Bangalore. My original plan was to go directly to Mumbai but I decided to stop in Pune to meet some old friends and of course, watch the India-Pakistan World Cup Semifinal! I had a flight from Mumbai to Damascus via Jeddah on Saudi Airlines that cost me 7431 Rupees! (after a Rs 1000 cashback)

Mumbai, India

I then reached Mumbai at about 4 AM on 31st, and that is the point where our journey begins, and we also learn the first “lesson” of the trip. After checking in for my 8 AM flight, I was ambling around when I noticed a Citibank poster promising free lounge access to Citibank premium debit card holders. I dipped into my wallet and to my honest surprise, my debit card had “Premium” written on it.

It might be worth mentioning at this point that I have never been in a proper airport lounge before. So I walked over to the Clipper lounge and said in my deepest voice – “I believe this gives me access to the lounge” and handed over my card, which the attended promptly proceeded to swipe! But, to my relief, out came a slip saying “welcome to the jungle” (or something like that), and it was free, as promised. So the moral of the story is that you should know the facilities that come with your credit/debit cards. You never know what you might be missing!

A lounge is (IMHO) not really worth paying for, unless you want to drink till you drop, but it’s fabulous if free. The chairs are comfortable, it’s MUCH quieter that the rest of the airport and there’s free flow alcohol, coffee and soft drinks along with copious amounts of food.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Officially, a passenger *might* be allowed into The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if flying Saudi Arabian Airlines on a transit of over 6 hours. But, this was not to be and I was destined to spend my 9 hours of transit time within the clean but utterly useless Jeddah airport’s transit area.

I soon got into people watching mode, however, and tried to glean as much info as possible about the place. Jeddah is much more liberal than the Saudi political heartland of Riyadh, and while there were of course the covered faces you’d expect, there were also quite a few people wearing western outfits. Saudia gave me a lunch coupon, so I had a nice fish, rice, beans and bread meal washed down with a Pepsi. Later on I had to buy a bottle of water and some biscuits, so it wasn’t entirely free of expense.

Damascus, Syria

I reached Damascus at 20:50, not knowing where I needed to go! But I had my host Mustafa’s number so immediately after getting some cash from an ATM in the airport, I gave him a ring, got directions and took a 50 Syrian Pound (SYP) – about 46 rupees bus to Baramkeh market, and a 150 Pound taxi to Bab Sharki (East Gate – henceforth referred to as Sharky Bob). My host Mustafa and his friend Mustafa came to meet me at “Sharky Bob” and we walked to his fascinating house down millenia-old alleyways in the Old City of Damascus. Once there, we met Mustafa, a housemate of Mustafa, but no relation to Mustafa’s friend Mustafa. (I’m NOT making this up)

Sharky Bob - The east gate to the walled old city of Damascus

Bab Sharki - East Gate

Nothing further to report, as we just spent the rest of the evening chatting and getting to know each other, before hitting the sack, tired from the long journey.

The day’s expenses:

  • A bottle of water and biscuits: 10 SAR
  • Phone Call: 50 SYP (I think I got ripped off on this one)
  • Bus: 50 SYP
  • Taxi: 150 SYP (Definitely got ripped off on this)

Total: Approx. 350 INR or 8 US$

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Odusan Observatory, Karaoke, Seoul Nightlife and North Korea

Travel dates: April 18-20, 2008. This entry is from my 2008 RTW Trip.

Karaoke in Korea

Karaoke in Korea

After the temple stay we returned to Gyeongju, but it was raining heavily so I missed all the historical sights and headed back to Seoul where I knew I could hang out with some awesome people, and I was not disappointed. I met up again with Seunghee and she showed me the milder side of Korean nightlife. And there I committed yet another faux pas. There are very strict (and incredibly complex) drinking rules about who fills up whose glass, and you NEVER fill your own glass. Well, another lesson learnt.

 

Yummy Korean BBQ and Soju

Yummy Korean BBQ and Soju

After spending half the next day at the Korean War Museum I met another CSer called Hailey, and she took me for some excellent Korean Barbecue (the cook ’em yourself kind), had lots of Soju and a great time.

After that I met up with Seunghee and a Japanese-German guy called Goro (yes, I did make the obligatory Mortal Kombat joke) and went for some Karaoke and more late night drinks.

The Odusan Unification Observatory

The border between the Republic of Korea (South Korea)  and the hermit  Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is not too far from Seoul. The De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) has become a tourist attraction where people can walk into one of the rooms where the tables are positioned in such a way that half the chairs are in North Korea and the other half in the South. These rooms are where meetings between the officials of the two countries are held when tourists are not around.

I really wanted to do the DMZ Pamunjeom tour (there is no independent tourism here) but for Indians, they required special clearance that would take several days.

 

The Odusan Runification Observatory

Spying on North Korea

The next best thing is the Odusan observatory, where one can check out various exhibits that give a glimpse of life in the DPRK, and stare through high powered binoculars at the literally lifeless border towns in the North. After flirting with the enemy we made our way back to Seoul, and since I had an early morning flight we decided to forgo sleep and sampled the legendary Seoul Nightlife, in clubs such as “Noise Basement”. The name pretty much describes what it was.

More pics here, here and here.

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Busan, Gyeongju, A Japanese Racist and a Budhhist Monk

Travel Dates: Apr 15-17, 2008. This entry is from my 2008 RTW Trip.

Busan

Gawangan Grand Bridge, Busan

Gawangan Grand Bridge, Busan

 

There are sadly no overnight buses or trains in South Korea, thanks to its size. So I took the early morning bus to Busan, which was supposed to leave at 9:30 but had already left when I got to the bus station at 9:25! Seriously, the buses leave early! This is very much in keeping with the Koreans’ “palli palli” (hurry up) attitude. Everyone is rushing to get somewhere all the time.

Anyway, I spent some time on the coin-operated internet terminals at the bus station and caught the next bus which, btw, also left early. I checked into the hostel in Busan and spent the rest of the day ambling around the city, at one point being scolded by an elderly lady in the Metro for not wearing socks with my sandals – “very cold, not good“.

A Live Concert by the Hae-undae beach, Busan

A Live Concert by the Hae-undae beach, Busan

 

The rest of the evening we were all holed up in the hostel thanks to the rain, and that led to a very uncomfortable discourse by a Japanese guy who was very clearly a bit deranged – “There is a hierarchy of races in the world that must be respected – White, Yellow, Brown and Black in that order“. There was a German couple that was very clearly offended by his preaching, but I let it all slide, even though I was the lowest in his “rating system” amongst those present.

 

Gyeongju

The next day the Germans and I decided to leave the place, and instead of finding another hostel, we headed to Gyeongju, which, as the ancient capital of the land, is to Korea what Kyoto is to Japan. I had the address of a temple where they accept tourists for a templestay cum martial arts program that allows you to immerse in the Buddhist monastic tradition while learning the Sunmudo martial art.

The Main Shrine of the Golgulsa Temple, Gyeongju

The Main Shrine of the Golgulsa Temple

 

There we were, at the gates of the Golgulsa Temple just outside Gyeongju in South Korea. A fat laughing Buddha faced us as we entered the temple. To this day, I’m not quite sure whether he was mocking or welcoming us.

The Sunmudo training itself is interesting. There’s a Polish monk who’s been there forever, and has a pre-teen kid whom he kicks around at will when he makes mistakes. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t think twice about kicking around the lazy tourists, and a quick look around the room tells me that the others share my fears. So when the Monk says “kick”, you ask “how high?”. Buddhist training is strict and has a rigid hierarchy, with the monks higher up in the chain wielding unquestionable power over the novices. Our Monk looked like he could kick in the roof if he wanted to, and we weren’t about to challenge his authority anytime soon.

 

The Sunmudo Training Hall

The Sunmudo Training Hall

 

The vegetarian food was awesome, and I had by then become accustomed to kimchi, so I loved it. The Germans didn’t, though, and had their own snacks. Non Vegetarian food was a strict no-no at the temple. The Golgulsa temple is known for its strictness, and there were quite a few high school kids present, probably sent there in an effort to “set them right”. I asked my German buddy which rule was the hardest to follow. Apparently not letting the toilet paper drop into the pot was the hardest. I being an Asian had no problems with it, as I am used to the more environmentally friendly alternative 😉

It was not a serene experience by any stretch of imagination. Wake up call is at 4 AM and if you miss it you have to perform 1000 bows as a penance. And It’s not just “bow and be on your way” bowing. You bow to a beat, you bow all the way down to the floor. You use every single joint in your body and you do it 108 times every day.

As I left the temple, I cursed my decision of restricting my Korea trip to 10 days, and vowed to come again, ready to kick higher than ever. What can I say? I’m a sucker for self-punishment. Maybe I’m a Buddhist after all.

More pics from Busan here and Gyeongju here.

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Incheon And Suwon: Stingrays, Hyundais and Historical Farts

Travel Dates: 12 -13 April, 2008. This entry is from my 2008 RTW trip.

Incheon

Dilek and I with some Koreans in traditional costumes

Dilek and I with some Koreans in traditional costumes

 

Incheon is the entry point to Korea for most people. It is located about an hour or so from Seoul and is home to the country’s busiest international airport. For us (Youngsoo, Dilek – another CSer and me) it was a nice day trip from Seoul. Youngsoo drove us to this coastal city for some excellent seafood, a traditional festival in the local Chinatown (the one and only Chinatown in Korea) and some seaside walks.

Fresh fish for dinner

Fresh fish for dinner

 

The fish market was especially interesting for me, and I saw some highly enthusiastic people tearing into Steve Irwin’s nemesis – the Stingray. The day came to an end with some excellent dinner back home, which included raw flatfish with incredibly spicy red pepper paste.

Suwon

A Fountain in the Korean Folk Village, Suwon

A Fountain in the Korean Folk Village, Suwon

 

Suwon is another fabulous day trip from Seoul. It is home to the ultra-touristy but still interesting Korean Folk Village. I went there with another CSer Seunghee who had the day free. We roamed around the reconstructed “village”, making silly expressions and posing where appropriate, drank wine from big ladles and in general had a lot of mindless, touristy fun. It is perhaps best not to look at such a place as an “attraction” per se, but as a kind of theme park where you go to have fun, and still get a brief glimpse into what village life in Korea was like.


Wearing a hanbok, taking a break from my head and behaving like a normal tourist for once

Wearing a hanbok, taking a break from my head and behaving like a normal tourist for once

 

Apart from the KFV, the town of Suwon itself is worth exploring, though it bears a deserted look through most of the day.

More pics from Incheon in the Day15 album and from Suwon in the Day16 album.

 

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