Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shanghai: Yuyuan Garden and the French Concession

When I stepped off the plane at Shanghai airport, I felt slightly shocked to be in China. Although I had traveled to Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2012, being in China proper just feels … different. I’m in the second largest country with the world’s largest population, and I don’t understand anything! Sure, there are signs in the Roman alphabet and I recognize a handful of Chinese characters, but I really do feel lost in this country. And earlier today, I actually was lost for about an hour.

Luckily, though, streets are at 90 degree angles and some of the street signs are labeled with an E and W to help with cardinal directions. If I get lost, I can just head East toward the Bund. And once I’m there, I’ll be rewarded with such an impressionable skyline.

I saw the Bund when I first landed on Saturday. Unfortunately, half of China seemed to be enjoying the Bund with me. I used my height to take pictures over all of the tourists around me, but couldn’t stay long on the waterfront with so many travelers jostling around me.

I had an early night, and spent Sunday morning at the beautiful Yuyuan Garden. Although the garden was also crammed with tourists, the area is so massive that you can find some space to breathe. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of the beautiful buildings, impressive rocks, and extensive greenery. After a while, I became a bit overwhelmed. The original beauty of the place was replaced with thoughts of ‘How can there be so much?’ I particularly enjoyed the details on the roofs, with dragons, phoenixes and their mythical brethren. Unfortunately, I’m traveling with my cell phone for a camera, which is not the best for detailed distant photography.

With an entry fee of only 30  Yuan (5 dollars), it is definitely a must-see in Shanghai.

The afternoon was spent wandering around the city looking for People’s Square. Somehow, I missed it but ended up at the French Concession.

The tree-lined streets were beautiful and provided a nice contrast with the morning’s garden stroll. A visit to the Site of the First Meeting of the Communist Party of China rounded out the afternoon.  I imagine it was a bit propagandical, but the information in English was sparsely translated with just a couple of dates and names.

I’m back at the hostel now for a quick rest, but I’ll be back out to explore for dinner and some more sights!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Banpo Bridge

Banpo Bridge at night. I like how blurry it is. The bridge lights up on the hour I believe...

North of the bridge, you can see a sunset over Itaewon (with the higest point being the mosque). Beautiful.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

East Sea Weekend

Back in June we decided that the last weekend of July would be spent on the East Coast. It started out as four of us, but as the weekend progressed, our group grew.

Our first night we spent at a love motel in Samcheok. A bit dirty but also dirty cheap. We spent Friday night on the beach slurping up ramen with shellfish and taking pictures at dusk.

Breakfast in the morning was a bit of a hassle to find, but once we found a restaurant, we enjoyed a Korean breakfast of 청국장 (fermented soy bean soup) and kimchi-jjigae.  

After meeting up with the rest of our companions at the bus stop, we headed to our Saturday destination: Jangho (장호). I had traveled to Jangho port last year when I camped on Samcheok's beach and really wanted to see it again. CNN Go listed Jangho as Korea's most beautiful village and I can see why. However, for some reason they like to describe it as Korea's Naples. This is Naples:

And this is Jangho.

So they are completely different. Plus, Naples is full of trash. Korea, stop calling X the Y of Korea. Jeju is not the Hawaii of Korea. Jeju is just Jeju. Comparing apples to oranges just ends up disappointing people. We were definitely not disappointed in Jangho, though, and spent the day basking in the sun, swimming, and drinking beer.

The evening was spent back in Samcheok with grilled shellfish and spicy octopus (쭈꾸미). A bit expensive, but mad delicious.

Sunday's activities were chosen last minute, but were probably my favorite of the weekend. We took a taxi to 무릉계곡 (Mureung Valley) for some hiking and mountain bibimbap. HS and I zoomed of and ended up by ourselves looking at waterfalls, climbing 'Heaven's Door' and looking out over the entire valley. What a day!

Poor deer lost its head...

This was my last weekend trip in Korea! Well, at least for this year. I'll probably be back again.