Rock law pt 2

In February 2020 I posted that my wife and I were planning a trip to Europe. The Korean group package tour we were considering taking went to, among other places, 브로츠와프 (beu-ro-cheu-wa-peu). I figured that it was Wroclaw, pronounced /ˈvrɔtswaf/. Yesterday’s paper included a story on Europe’s best undiscovered city (you probably can’t pronounce the name of) . The whole article requires a subscription, but you should be able to read the first two paragraphs, including the writer’s own pronunciation of Rock-law and his non-IPA rendering of Vrot-swav (more-or-less the same as my IPA rendering). (The history of Polish pronunciation and spelling is beyond my capabilities.) (See also.)

Very soon after than, our plans got knocked on the head by coronavirus travel restrictions, and it wasn’t until late December last year that we were able to travel – to Korea rather than Europe. Her latest suggestion for our next trip is a Mediterranean cruise, but from what I’ve seen they are very expensive. Our trade-off is time v money v experience(s).


Korea trip 2022-3

I am way behind on this. We got back to Australia on 27 Jan and I’ve been very busy since then. I’m going to publish a summary first, then add the details some time before our next visit.

Day 1 – Thurs 29 Dec 2022
Sydney to Incheon to Mokdong.

Day 2 – Fri 30 Jan.
I walked from Dongdaemun gate to Namsan to Namdaemun gate. My wife J joined me for a light festival at Gwanghwamun plaza.

Day 3 – Sat 31 Dec
We met our friend KJ near Mapo and walked along the river to Sky Park and the World Cup Stadium.

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Korea trip 2022-3, the day before

This trip has been a long time coming. In September 2019 I got a full-time casual job which looked to be more stable than my previous part-time and/or casual and/or short-term work. I talked to my manager about the possibility of taking casual time off in September 2020 for an overseas holiday, and she agreed. By March 2020 my wife and I had generally agreed on two weeks in South Korea and two weeks in Europe. Then COVID travel restrictions happened.

Once restrictions were eased, we started planning again. In between, my causal job was reclassified as permanent ‘cos I’m awesome, which entitles me annual leave with full pay (4 weeks, for Australians). We decided to skip Europe and spend a month in Korea. We chose January because my work is a bit slower in January, plus there are several public holidays as well as my annual leave. My wife and her colleagues decided to shut their restaurant for the duration, to the disappointment of some customers, but they need a break after working very, very hard for a long, long time (with no annual leave allowance). My wife grumbled a bit about visiting in deep winter, but we’ll go at different times on future trips. I love the cold weather. I originally assumed that Lunar New Year/Seollal would fall after we left (because of the lunar calendar), but was pleased to find that it falls very early next year, and will be a few days before we leave. 

We investigated hotels in the Jongno/Eulji/Dongdaemun area but a brother and a friend of my wife offered accommodation in two different middle-range suburbs of greater Seoul, which means I will have to spend varying amounts of time on trains rather than actually doing things. But some things will be more convenient; her friend lives one station from a major historical site which is high on my list of things to do. My list is actually longer than the number of days we’ll be there. And that’s not counting the social engagements at short notice that will no doubt happen once my wife is there and contacting people. And that’s only in and around Seoul, with a few day and overnight trips. Several suggestions for a 3-4 day trip further afield have been left by the wayside.

Once I get there, I will give all monetary amounts in KRW. For reference, the exchange rate for major currencies today is KRW10,000 = GBP6.53 = EUR7.39 = USD7.86 = CAD10.63 = AUD11.68. (If you can’t remember that, the first approximation is KRW10,000 = more or less 10 of those.)

This blog is mostly anonymous (at least to people who don’t otherwise know who I am), which means that I can’t directly identify anyone else. I will refer to my wife as ‘J’, which is the initial of English name she sometimes uses. Everyone else will be some family or friend of hers or friend of mine, and/or initials. The first three are her brother DS and sister-in-law MH and friend HK. I will update when I can, but it may not be every day. There will be photos.

The last few days have been a combination of getting things done and not becoming too overwhelmed (with greater or lesser success). 

I have already set the alarm for 5 am tomorrow. The temperature in Sydney will be approaching 30 degrees by the time we leave, and will be below zero by the time we arrive at Incheon. Among other things, I need to pack suitable clothes in my carry-on.

Meanwhile, photos of my previous stays in 2006-09 and 2015-16 can be found here and here.

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. 

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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“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.

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“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”.

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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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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.