How many?

I am researching places to go and things to do in South Korea. We’ve booked flights there at the end of Dec and back at the end of Jan. In fact, I ‘ve been researching since before the travel restrictions started. We were just about to book travel to South Korea and Europe. 

The N TERRACE restaurant at N Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower) is 

One of the few most romantic places in Korea!

Unlike one of the only places, which has its defenders but I find meaningless even as I understand what the person is trying to mean, one of the few most romantic places does make sense, mostly. There are romantic places in Korea. This is one of the romantic places in Korea. There are the most romantic places in Korea. This is one of the most romantic places in Korea. There are few most romantic places in Korea. This is one of the few most romantic places in Korea. (Compare One of the few romantic places in Korea!)

It makes sense, but it’s very awkward. We expect the most to be either one or few at most. Having many mosts defeats the purpose of them being most

A Google search shows one of the few most:

stable currencies, important ways, talented and complete musician [sic], natural sites, beautiful Islamic prayer quotes, prestigious museums

In most cases, either few or most would suffice, few if you want to imply a smaller number (one of the few stable currencies) and most if you don’t (one of the most important ways).

One of the few most important musician is plain wrong. Few must be followed by a plural noun. 


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). 

Continue reading

“salad mice”

I happened on the Youtube channel of a young American couple apparently living and working in South Korea and touring occasionally. The auto-subtitles were on, and one video included the phrase

salad mice 

Because I could see their video and hear them speaking, I knew what they were talking about, but I’ll leave it with you with no context.

Continue reading

“Why aren’t there more fat Koreans?”

When I went to Korea for the first time, I spent several days surviving on convenience store food between going for some meals in restaurants with colleagues, sometimes with their adult students. I knew that I’d have to find a restaurant I could go to by myself and/or cook for myself (which required some planning because I had to buy cookware, crockery and cutlery – my manager provided a very nice studio apartment with bed and pillow, but nothing else). 

Most of the restaurants I could see into had low tables and floor seating, but I found one that had Western-style tables and chairs. The manager placed the menu in front of me, pointed to the first page and said “Rice” (which I could actually see myself), then to the second and said “Dock”. Was that duck or dog? I was afraid to ask, so I said “Rice, please”. She and/or (a) waitress(es) brought out a bowl of plain rice, several bowls of soup and a major array of meat and/or vegetable dishes (I seem to remember 13 – I didn’t record this story in my diary of the time). I got through the rice and halfway through the meat and/or vegetables. At the end of the meal the manager offered me a big cup of shikhye (a sweet rice dessert drink). I first declined, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I forced it down somehow. 

Along the way I discovered that she spoke passable English, having lived in Brisbane, Australia for some time. As I paid and left, I asked “Why aren’t there more fat Koreans?” She said “Oh, is all vegetables, is all healthy”.

Continue reading

여러 분 추석 잘 보내세요!

Chuseok isn’t a holiday in Australia, of course, so I spent the day working, listening to Korean music or semi-watching Korean hiking videos for most of the time. Youtube suggested two videos of old photos of Seoul, dating from 1884 and 1984 respectively. (A lot happened in between!)

The first is on the 대한여지도 Korean Geographic channel, and has photos taken by Percival Lowell. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube korean geographic seoul 1884 percival lowell’.

The second is the 복원왕 Restoration King channel, and has colourised photos. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)

If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube restoration king life in seoul 1984’.

The next video I watched was from 1979, and the Yeouido 63 Building was conspicuously absent (it was started in 1980). While I was watching it, I had the sudden thought that it would be interesting to compare then and now (if possible). The screenshot for the second video above should be relatively easy, but the screenshot for the first video is probably under an apartment building or department store.

I also remembered seeing a video at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza of the view from Namsan, with the buildings risings up animatedly over time.


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):

Continue reading

Good luck getting there

(Google Street View)

This sign straddles a motorway west of Seoul. Most notable is the panel at the left. While it used to be possible for some people (workers, tourists in authorised groups) to travel as far as Gaeseong, travel to Pyongyang hasn’t been possible for as long as this motorway has been here. I suspect that everyone driving here knows that. I have a memory that a sign gives distances. Either I’m misremembering or there’s another sign. Seoul and Pyongyang are 195 km apart, and it is theoretically possible to cover that in approximately 2 hours. Practically …

The text at the bottom of the left-hand panel says South-North exit/entry ticket office

(I suspect that the road signs on the other side of the border don’t include Paju and Seoul.)

Google bedroom view

I have been using Google Maps to explore South Korea, retracing places I’ve been to and finding places I haven’t. Naver Maps has better maps and aerial, but no street view or user-submitted photos, from what I can see. I managed to trace one brother- and sister-in-law’s house in a densely populated suburb of Seoul. I noticed that there was one user-submitted photo nearby. A presumably young woman has submitted a photo of her bedroom, in an apartment immediately above the office where my wife used to work. There’s nothing revealing about the photo, but it seems an unlikely thing for anyone to submit to Google Maps. 

A very famous wall

Another well-done travel and tourism resource is a Youtube channel called Seoul Walker, which consists of someone’s video of himself walking mainly silently around various parts of Seoul and nearby places (eg, Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon). Yesterday and today, I watched the one of Deoksugung Palace, Seoul this autumn. At one point my wife came into the room I was in, so I paused the video (it just happened to be along the outside front wall, opposite City Hall), explained in general terms what it was about, then showed it to her saying “Where is this?”. She instantly identified it.

This is a perfectly ordinary Korean wall, with some perfectly ordinary trees. There must be many almost identical walls. It wasn’t even the very famous side wall of Deoksugung, with its narrow, bending street and overhanging trees. In fact, I instantly identified that in a Korean tv program she was watching, and I just happened to glance over.