Tourism Korean, part 1

Visitors to Seoul are very likely to encounter at least one of Seodaemun, Namdaemun or Dongdaemun. Even if their tour guide (human, printed or digital) doesn’t tell them, it’s probably possible to figure out that they are the original west great gate, south great gate and east great gate of Seoul. Seo, nam and dong, therefore, are west, south and east. Dae might be great or gate, and mun might be vice versa, but the head of any compound noun is more likely to be in the first or last position, and finding that Gwanghwamun is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung palace firmly points to mun as gate. 

These actually have (or had, in the case of Seodaemun) official names, which are 돈의문 (don-ui-mun), 숭례문 (sung-nye-mun) and 흥인지문 (heung-in-ji-mun) respectively (which are also rendered in hanja (Chinese characters used in Korean), but tourists don’t have to worry about any of that). Seodaemun also refers to a gu (local government area), park and prison, Namdaemun to a market and Dongdaemun to a gu, market, former baseball stadium and design plaza (and I’m sure a lot else each). Bukdaemun (north great gate) (officially 숙정문 (suk-jeong-mun)) exists but is far less known, partly because it is perched in the mountains, a moderate hike from anywhere.

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999th post – A tale of two cities

I have occasionally pondered the similarities and differences between these two cities (shown above as close as I can to the same scale). I think there are more differences than similarities. Both are the biggest city in their country, but Seoul comprehensively so and Sydney only just (and is projected to be overtaken by Melbourne sooner rather than later). Seoul is the capital of South Korea, but Sydney isn’t the capital of Australia, even though many people around the world think or assume it is. As a result, Sydney (and/or Melbourne) dominate economically and culturally, but not politically (at least at the national level; they dominate their respective states). 

Geographically, both sit between the ocean and mountains. Even though South Korea is overall more mountainous, Wentworth Falls (at the far left of the Sydney map) is higher in elevation than Bukhansan. It’s just that Bukhansan is located comparatively much closer to its city. (Also, Mount Kosciuszko (the highest mountain on mainland Australia) is higher than Hallasan, and Mawson Peak (the highest on an outlying territory) is (just) higher than Mount Baekdu.) Both are at similar latitudes (Seoul 37ºN and Sydney 33ºS), but Seoul’s weather is dominated by the Siberian high and East Asian monsoon, meaning very cold winters (with snow) and very wet summers (with occasional typhoons) while Sydney’s is more equable, very rarely getting super-cold or super-hot (at least towards the coast; my inland suburb is more variable, and one day a few years ago a suburb near here was the hottest place on the planet). 

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States, provinces and territories

Completing a trilogy of geographical-related posts is a topic I’ve had on my mind since posting about Texas not being that big, four and half years ago: the largest country subdivisions in the world. These go by different names in different countries. The most common in English-speaking countries are state, province and territory. 

Drawing mostly on Wikipedia’s list of the largest country subdivisions by area, the top 10 are:

NameCapital (largest city)Area km2Comparison (world country, x Texas)Population (percentage of country’s total)Comparison (world country, USA city proper)
Sakha Republic (Yakutia), RussiaYakutsk3,083,523 India 4.4 964,330 (0.6%)Djibouti
Austin TX
State of Western Australia, AustraliaPerth2,645,615 Kazakhstan  3.8 2,615,794 (10%)Lithuania Chicago IL
Krasnoyarsk Krai, RussiaKrasnoyarsk2,339,700 Democratic Republic of the Congo 3.42,876,497 (2%)Albania Chicago IL
Greenland, DenmarkNuuk2,166,086 Saudi Arabia 3.155,877 (1%)American Samoa (Wikipedia’s list stops at 100,000, the last being Roanoke VA)
Territory of Nunavut, CanadaIqaluit2,038,722 Mexico 2.938,780 (0.1%)Monaco
(see above)
State of Queensland, AustraliaBrisbane1,851,856 Sudan 2.75,076,512 (20%)Costa Rica Chicago IL + Houston TX 
State of Alaska, USAJuneau (Anchorage)1,717,854 Iran 2.5737,438 (0.2%)Bhutan
Seattle WA
Xingjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China Ürümqi1,664,897 Iran 2.424,867,600 (1.77%)Australia
State of Amazonas, BrazilManaus1,570,745Mongolia 2.34,080,611 (1.9%)Moldova
Los Angeles CA
Province of Quebec, CanadaQuebec City (Montreal)1,542,056Mongolia, 2.28,484,965 (22%)Israel
New York NY
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Today is 15 years since I went to Korea the first time. We were planning to travel there last year, probably for Chuseok, before continuing to Europe, but that got knocked on the head. We hope to travel as soon as we can, but that is obviously not going to be soon.

I have been watching a lot a hiking videos and reading travel websites and blogs. My default maps is Google. Although its coverage is limited, it gives me most of the information I need. I have also investigated Naver Maps. Their maps and satellite are better than Google’s, but they have no street view, at least that I’ve been able to find. (Their default language is Korean, not surprisingly. There may be a way to switch that to English.) A few days ago I read a blog which mentioned Kakao Maps, which has better maps and satellite and more extensive street view than Google. (And is also in Korean, but the blogger said there’s a way to switch languages.)

These three maps show the area including Deoksugung Palace (lower left), Seoul City Hall, Cheonggyecheon and Jongno Tower (upper right):

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I was using Google Maps to look at a medium-sized city in Nigeria (because work) and spotted Absorption Cathedral. I tested it out on six browsers on two computers at work and home. Microsoft Edge, Google Crome for Windows at work and Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer for Mac at home call it Absorption Cathedral. Internet Explorer for Windows at work calls it Assumpta Maria Cathedral (as does Bing Maps for Mac at home). The diocese’s own website call it Assumpta Cathedral (as do Wikipedia’s pages for the diocese and the cathedral) and there are results online for Maria Assumpta Cathedral

I can understand that Google Maps displays differently on different browsers, but would have assumed (<haha) that it uses the same data for each. The Roman Catholic Church is a major international organisation, so the information must be readily available. A number of travel websites show accommodation near Absorption Cathedral

Absorption and assumption have similar meanings (ab- sorbēre to suck in, swallow and ad- + sūmere to take up). Assumption has been given a theological meaning, but absorption hasn’t. 

PS The Borg on Star Trek was/were at the back of my mind, but the word used there is assimilation.

No more unweder

For the last six days, the east coast of Australia has received very heavy rain, up to the average total for March each day in some places. Some parts have been flooded and more are waiting on rising river levels. Yesterday evening my wife asked me if there would be “more rain” today. Well, yes, in the sense of additional rain, but no, in the sense of a greater quantity of rain. Today was least wet day of the six; indeed it stopped raining, the clouds mostly dispersed and we got a few hours of mostly blue sky and sun. The entire night sky is now clear, and tomorrow’s temperature is predicted to be warmer than an average summer’s day.

Yesterday I mentioned an Anglo-Saxon word list. One of the words is unweder, extreme and unseasonal weather, which might be some comment about the weder in Angle-land. But a friend who moved from England to Australia commented on Facebook that Sydney actually gets more rain than London, which I had to check. Yes, Sydney 1,147.1mm/45.16in per year from 95 rainy days, and London 601.7mm/23.68in per year from 109 rainy days. So in Sydney, when it rains, it pours. Temperature (average and extreme) and hours of sunshine are other factors. I also suspect that London’s rainfall doesn’t change much from year to year, while Sydney’s does. Note that Sydney is at 33 degrees south, and London is at 51 degrees north

Mental maps

One travel video blogger documented himself travelling from Tokyo to Sapporo then on to Cape Sōya, the northernmost point of Japan. I knew that Sapporo is opposite Vladivostok, Russia, which I have always used as an example of somewhere impossibly remote. But the two of them lie at 43 degrees north, closer to the equator than to the north pole. And that’s the same latitude as southern France and Toronto, Canada. Even Cape Sōya, at 45 degrees, lies at the same latitude as Milan and Montreal (and is slightly closer to the equator, due to the earth’s equatorial bulge). In Seoul, there is a direction and distance pointer showing that Vladivostok is only 740 km away. You could easily drive there in a day if you didn’t have to cross two of the most heavily fortified borders in the world along the way.

One website listing cities by latitude shows that Kathmandu, Nepal and Brisbane, Australia lie at equivalent latitudes, 27 degrees north and south respectively (Brisbane is a few tenths of a degree closer to the equator). But Kathmandu is inland, 1400 metres above sea level and 160 km from the Himalayas, and Brisbane is on the coast between the Australian desert and the Pacific Ocean. 

Daehakro > Daehangno

One travel video blogger (maybe the same one as in yesterday’s post – they are beginning to blur) spent a day in 대학로, a theatre and gallery district close to the CBD of Seoul. She pronounced it dae-hak-ro throughout her video, but the Korean pronunciation is (closer to) dae-hang-no, as one commenter pointed out. 

I can understand why she pronounced it like she did, though. Firstly, daehakro is the literal transliteration from the hangeul (whether she knows that or not). Secondly, she mentioned the Welcome Daehakro festival, which uses that spelling.  

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