Archive for July, 2010

Tidbits

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

So, I’ve been writing for a while. But mostly about things worth mentioning. Well, mostly about things worth mentioning and worthy of the effort to write down.

Unfortunately, my life isn’t filled with just things that are worth mentioning/writing down. There’s also a whole bunch of other stuff. But as this blog isn’t so much about me saying funny shit, getting a book deal and cruising to easy-town, and more about my life so I thought I’d mention some of the less mention-worthy stuff.

There’s Ultimate Frisbee. Now, it’s hard to combine a word like Frisbee, the plastic disc we’ve all chucked around as some part in our life with Ultimate. So to give you an idea of how much I run during these events here are a few videos.
Though I’d like to add I’m nowhere that fit and usually only run that fast during the first 2-3 points. But it’s a nice game and even though we play in the heat of Seoul summer I enjoy it. We play on the shore of the Han, which means we have a nice view while playing.

There’s my Thesis. You know . . .  the thing at the end of my academic career? The thing I’m here to finish? The thing that’ll guarantee me a fantastic job in Europe/America (though is as yet of no help getting me something here). I spend a large part of my waking moments thinking/writing/reading/theorizing about this thing. I’d say it’s quite an important part of my life here. Though . . . not something I can put in a humorous light easily. Or an interesting light for that matter. So . . . mentioning it here. Still working on that. Recently got the final go-ahead so unless I screw up royally I should be done by October.

I’m running a D&D game. OK, this is worthy of mention, but not yet. I am planning to do a bit of writing about it, but at the very least I’ll put a blogpost up about it pretty soon. I started the game with 1 fellow veteran (actually far more veteran than me) and 4 noobs. Of those 4, there are now 2 left. It just wasn’t for them. I actually lost one to Warhammer :P. After the summer break we’re getting reinforcements though. All people who have played it, though sparsely (And like 15 years ago. And boy have things changed since AD&DII) . This sunday we’re finishing the introduction chapter of the campaign and I can throw my little nooblets to the wolves/demons/beholders/ettercaps/devils. I won’t bore you with their adventures yet, but know that the murdering bastards have been in Jail since the last session. And I think it speaks well for my players that I’ve gotten them to the point where they murder ‘innocents’ so soon.

Raph has a language exchange partner. She teaches her partner French and in turn she gets tutored on Korean. Which is sorely needed as we’re very very lazy on our own studies. I wonder if I can find some Korean silly enough to want to learn Dutch. . . Why not, found a Japanese girl while living in Tokyo that wanted to do that.

We’re looking into getting a dog. This is proving to be tricky. First, dogs in Korea are small. Very small. There’s not really a lot of social acceptance of big dogs. People will cross the street if a golden retriever approaches them, big dogs can’t be transported in the city public transport system and their owners aren’t always treated nicely.
It’s tricky for other reasons as well, first is the language. We’ve been able to identify 2 shelters that handle adoptable dogs. There’s things like cafe.naver.kr/dogpalza(No, that’s no spelling error on my end) but we can’t really identify what we need from that.
The last bit of trickiness comes from the big dog popularity issue . . . We went to visit the shelter and were told there were 3 medium sized dogs. There were 2, the other one really was in a smaller size category. One was a cocker spaniel. Then there was 1 of interest left.
There were 13 small sized dogs in there, of which only some were available for adoption, the rest were there for veterinary procedures. And 2 medium size dogs. 0 big dogs. You’d think that with the problems regarding big dogs some people would try it and then dump the dog somewhere, but there’s just small dogs. We might be able to find something with breeders, but . . . something something principle of the thing something something. Besides, we don’t care one fig if we get a purebred. Mutts tend to have less genetic problems and gentler temperaments anyway.

We’ve got friends. Save 2, all of them are non-Korean(Yes, we have a token black guy. Though he’s really from the Dominican republic making him . . . latino??). All of them. We suck submerging ourselves in the local culture :D. I can’t even tell the Koreans at ultimate apart(Though in my defence 4 out of the 9 Korean players are Kims). The other two consist of the before mentioned language partner and the other is the partner of/neighbour. We have yet to make friends with a Korean we met through non-waeguk interaction. I’m pretty sure we need to do that some day. Maybe get back to that language course so we can actually talk to them . . . .

Anyway, that combined with all of the other stuff you read in these two blogs should give you all the basics you need to imagine what a day for us is like.

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Bonus Quote of the day:

I pity the fool

– Token Black friend

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Quote of the day:

Nobody reads these anymore.

– Springfield Elementary Blackboard

Japanese holiday

Monday, July 19th, 2010

So, the Koreans won’t tolerate me for more than 3 months. We therefor headed to our old flame: Japan. We would land at Kansai airport, and Koya-san, an old destination of ours, is just a couple 10s of km east of there.
Unfortunately, there’s also some mountain stuff in between there, so we had to go to Osaka before we could go down to there. Which made our very efficient flight/travel plan somewhat less efficient.

We flew from Inchon airport with an overbooked plane. This cause many many problems and resulted in us getting businessclass seats.
Karmarific. Lotsa legroom, good service. I can get used to that.
Then there was the trainride. Nice view, good on time and it was just past nightfall when we were dropped off by our accommodation by the free bus. The free bus was free because we only had big bills and the bus didn’t accept those.
Youth Hostels are the same the world over . . . . or are they



Real rice paper walls though, which meant that we could hear the neighbour snore as well as in any dormroom the world over 😛

Last time I went to Koya san it was packed with tourists, but last time had been a weekend. Turns out that even in summer Koya san is all but deserted by tourists during weekdays. If you ever visit this place, go on a weekday. Serene mountain monasteries come off better without crowds of tourists.

The first day we went for a hike in the peaks surrounding the temples. As women weren’t allowed in this very sacred site this was as close as female pilgrims could come to this place fro centuries. The hike started pleasantly



But it’s important to remember karma can be a bitch.
First there was a bit of this:

And then there was going down the mountain as fast as we could hoping lightning wouldn’t strike us or too near us (It didn’t oblige on the last bit) and definitely not getting the camera out for it would drown. While initially pausing for the storm to pass on the very top of the mountain, I said it would likely stop the moment we got down.

This . . . is my sock



We took off the sock, the moment we got back to civilization.
As you can tell, the rain had stopped.
2 minutes before
This is a book we borrowed for the trip

One which we will certainly replace for the owner btw.
There were 3 books in the bag at the top of the mountain.

Next time we go hiking, we’re checking weather reports.
And so, the next day, with reports indicating mostly clear skies, we set of on Saturday to hike from Koya-san to kudoyama.

A very pleasant hiking experience at times

with many bits of wildlife on the way down



And at least 3 snakes and many many spiders which didn’t make it to film.

The trail we walked has been hiked for many many many years. Centuries even, which makes the path somewhat . . . .well trodden and slightly eroded at times


It was usually well cared for

Though not always kept to its original purpose

Usually dangerous to get off the path

and many many other things. I’ll leave you with a link to the album.

We arrived after 9 hours of hiking at the bottom of the hill with just enough cash left to buy tickets to Osaka.
Last time we were in Japan we had bank cards and mobile phones which all worked there.

This time we spent 1 hour walking around after bank closing times looking for an ATM to accept our damn foreign cards already. Citibank Japan didn’t accept citibank Korea, and from there on it was an uphill struggle getting anything to accept our Dutch/French cards.

We eventually got cash, a place to sleep and the first restaurant we walked into was a damn Korean restaurant. 3rd one did the trick though and we fell in to an exhausted slumber.

The next day was spent in Osaka, lounging and getting back to the airport. Where we were told there were no seating arrangements, but there were problems with me entering Korea. Eventually they did let us on the plane, but we were removed from our bulkhead seats because we had seat 20. Karma was back with a vengeance.

We arrived just fine and I’ll leave you with a picture of one of the things that makes Japan great:

A wasabi kitkat.

And just in case Sarah reads this blog:

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Quote of the day:

What in the world was running through that warped, evil scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements.

– Yossarian

Openbaar vervoer in Seoul

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

We zijn hier nu al een tijdje en beginnen een beetje door te hebben hoe het hier allemaal werkt.

In een stad ten grootte van Seoul is het belangrijk te weten hoe je je met het openbaar vervoer moet voortbewegen.
Het openbaar vervoer hier bestaat uit een paar delen.

  • De metro
  • Bussen
  • Treinen
  • Taxi’s

Ik weet niet of taxi’s technisch gezien onder openbaar vervoer vallen, maar toch noem ik ze hier

Maar eerst: De metro. Het metro netwerk van Seoul is groots en ziet er een beetje zo uit:

Of, iets als dit:

Het metro system is dus vrij uitgebreid, en je kan vrijwel over komen ermee. Komt met kaarten en voor thuisgebbruik, een websites die je kan vertellen hoe je ergens t snelst komt. Also available in English.

Maar, hoewel het metro netwerk uitgebreid is, is het uitsluitend gebruik van het systeem niet optimaal, iets waar we snel achter kwamen toen we tussen ons kantoor en huis moesten gaan shuttelen.

Gelukkig hebben ze naast de metro hier ook bussen. Van de bus-routes zal ik geen kaart laten zien, het enige dat je dan zou hebben is een hoop gekleurde confetti en misschien een rivier en wat parken. Er zijn er namelijk nogal wat.

Je hebt hier 4 verschillende kleuren voor de bussen. Blauw, Groen, Rood en Geel. En daarnaast heb je express bussen voor dingen als de vliegvelden.

De blauwe bussen zijn de hoofd-aderen van busvervoer in Seoul. Ze gaan van zone naar zone, en de zones zien er zo uit:


De nummers die the bus identificeert bestuit uit 3 delen. De zone waar hij begint, de zone waar hij eindigd, en het serie nummer van de bus die deze twee zones verbind. Wij nemen, bijvoorbeeld, ‘s oches de 401  of the 143, want we willen van zone 0 (het begin/eindpunt van 401 aangezien hij natuurlijk in 2 richtingen rijdt en de zone waar de 143 doorheen gaat) naar zone 4. Om een indicatie te geven hoeveel bussen er rijden hier. Dit zijn de busnummers van zone 1: 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105,   106,107, 108(1), 108(2), 109, 110A, 110B, 120, 130, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151 ,152, 153, 154, 160, 162, ,163, 171, 172.

Groene bussen verbinden metro lijnen en blauwe bussen. Ze kunnen zones uit, maar gaan slechts over 1 zone grens. De eerste nummers waar je ze mee kan identificeren zijn identiek aan de blauwe bussen, maar daarna hebben ze 2 cijfers voor de identificatie. Het zijn er namelijk meer. Voor een lijstje  moet je hier zijn.

Do rode bussen zorgen voor de connecties tussen belangrijke punten in de stad en de buitenwijken (de grijze delen die alsnog nummers hebben). Er zijn er niet belachelijk veel, en eigenlijk is dat wel te begrijpen. Lange afstanden wil je niet in de bus zitten want, zoals met vele grote steden is het wegennet goed dichtgeslibt. Neem de metro mensen.

Gele bussen. Leuk feitje, onze gele bus is groen. Deze blijven binnen een zone en verbinden belangrijke punten met compleet onbelangrijke punten (mensen blijken vaker op onbelangrijke punten te wonen).

Dan heb je nog treinen. Hoewel het lastig is te zien waar precies metro ophoud en trein begint. Sommige metros lopen soms boven de grond en er is er een die uitsluitend boven de grond loopt. Het KTX netwerk stopt iig in enkele grote knooppunten (Seoul station, Yeongsan en Gwangmyeong) alvorens door te gaan naar Busan, Mokpo, Incheonenzo. Dan zijn er ook nog de express metros die waarschijnlijk de moeite waard zijn te noemen*.

Voorbeeld.

Wij leven in  Itaewon-dong, een dong in Yongsan-gu.
Ons kantoor is in Garak Market-dong, een dong in Songpa-gu.

Seoul is een grote stad. Dit is slechts een kaart van een klein deel, maar toch al 12 km in een rechte lijn.

Da’s niet echt een rechte lijn

Maar als we de bus erbij nemen:

Nu heet deze post ‘Openbaar vervoer in Seoul’. En niet metro/bussen etc in Seoul. Dat is omdat het een voornamelijk geintegreerd systeem is (stomme lijn 9). Ontdanks dat we 2 verschillende systemen gebruiken betalen we 1 prijs.
Met de metro, 18 km, 1 uur,  ₩ 1100. Dat is 72 cent (07-07-2010 wisselkoers)
Bus en subway samen, 15 km en 40 minuten,  ₩ 1100. 72 cents

Maakt niet uit waar je woont. Da’s een goede deal. In Japan heb je zoiets, misschien in Singapore. Maar de NS? Neeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Ik denk t niet.

En het kan nog beter. We wonen bovenaan een heuvel. Zoals ik wel eens gezegd heb 100 meter boven waar de bus/metro eindigd. Zodra we uit de 401/143 komen wachten we op onze groen gele 03 die ons naar het Hyatt hotel vervoerd waarna we naar beneden terug naar huis kunnen. Zonder etra kosten. 2 overstappen, 2 bussen en een metro voor 72 cent.

Nu heb ik een end eerder taxis genoemd, maar nog niet in het verhaal verwerkt.
Taxi gebruik hier is een stuk anders dan in West Europa. Ergens in het systeem zit een omslagpunt waar men van ‘weinig, maar dure’ taxi ritten naar ‘veel en goedkope’ taxi ritten gaat en het nog steeds geld opleverd. Korea is niet het enige land dat aan de andere kant van het spectrum van Nederland zit, zoals Raph altijd zegt: Veel Z.O. asiatische landen zijn nog goedkoper dan hier, maar da’s waarschijnlijk omdat alles (loon, benzine, rijst) daar ook goedkoper is.

Toen we van ons kantoor de dingen verhuisden naar ons apartement huurden we hiervoor een taxi. Gedurende spitsuur, met alle extra tijd die we daardoor moesten loggen, dwars door Seoul betaalde we ₩ 14000. Da’s €9.13. In Delft kost t me 6-7 euro om van t station tot m’n huis te komen. En ontdanks dat ik ook aan de rand van de stad woornde is dat 2.5 km en 5-10 minuten werk. Als wij ‘s nachts (met hoger nacht tarrief) terugkomen uit Hongdae, zo’n 11 km hier vandaan kost t ons ₩ 7000 (€4.50) om terug te komen.

De nationale snack (Kimchi) wint het nog niet van de kroket, maar over het openbaar vervoer kan ik niet klagen.

* maar doe ik niet

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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be

– Douglas Adams

Public transportation in Seoul

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

OK, so we’ve been here for a while and we’re starting to find our stride.
We know what we’re doing, we know how to go about things, we know how to find our way.

Important in finding our way is the Seoul Public Transportation system.
This consists of a number of different parts

  • The subway
  • The buses
  • The trains
  • Taxis

Taxis aren’t really something you’d put under the header of public transport, but you will see how it has it’s place when I get to it.

The subway is an extensive network of different lines (10 in total I think) that twist and turn and dig their way through Seoul soil. Looking something like this:

Or, if you will, something like this:

The system is vast and will take you close to pretty much anywhere you want to go. It comes with websites which will tell you how long your trip will take and the quickest/easiest route. Also available in English.

But, as we found out soon enough when we moved into our apartment, just taking the subway isn’t always the fastest way to get around. With the Han (the big river) running through Seoul choices had to be made where lines cross. With the hills and mountains detours had to be chosen.

Enter the bus system. I can’t show you a map with the buslines, as it would simply be stringy confetti. There isn’t a part of Seoul that isn’t serviced by at least one bus. The bus system is complicated, but I’ll give a stab at it.

There are 4 color buses. Blue, Green, Red and Yellow. Then there’s express buses for airport duty and stuff

Blue buses are the major arteries of bus transport. They go from one zone of Seoul to another. The zones of Seoul look like this:

The blue bus numbers consist of 3 numbers. The zone it comes from, the zone it goes to, and the route serial number. For instance, the bus we take in the morning is the 143 or the 401. We get on in 0 (which is one of the start/stop, because of course buses go both ways, zones of the 401. But is also between 1 and 4) and get off in 4. It’s the #1 bus for the 4-0 and the 3rd bus for the 1-4 zone. To give you an indicator of how many buses there are. These are the bus numbers starting in zone 1: 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105,   106,107, 108(1), 108(2), 109, 110A, 110B, 120, 130, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151 ,152, 153, 154, 160, 162, ,163, 171, 172.

Green buses connect subway lines and blue bus routes. They can cross zones, but only ever one. Their numbers operate the same way as the blue buses except that the serial number is a 2 digit number. Because there’s more of them. Want a list of zone 1 green buses? Go here.

Red buses connect the center with the sub-suburbs. That’s the gray bit which still have numbers in them. There’s not so many of them, and with good reason. This is a metropolitan, which in today’s world doesn’t just mean lots of people but most definitely means heavy congestion on the roads. Seriously, take a subway.

Yellow buses. Funny thing, our yellow bus is a green bus. Someone got confused I think. Yellow buses travel within a zone and connect useful points. The number is based on 2 numbers. The zone number and the serial number.  Except those called ‘city center circulating bus’ and the like.

The trains. To be honest some of the subways run above ground, which make the difference a bit hard to spot. But the KTX system stops in a couple of major hubs (Seoul station, Yeongsan and Gwangmyeong) and connects them with Busan, Mokpo, Incheon and the like. There’s also some express subway lines which may be worth mentioning*.

Example time.

We live in Itaewon-dong, a dong in Yongsan-gu.
Our office is in Garak Market-dong, a dong in Songpa-gu.

Please keep in mind that Seoul is a a BIG city. That’s about 12 km as the crow flies. The way the subway runs is this:

Birds fly more efficiently than that

Add a bus to it and you have this:

Now, I named this post ‘Public transportation in Seoul’ because it’s mostly an integrated system (Damn you, line 9). That means that while we use 2 different systems we pay one price.
By subway alone, a ride roughly 18 km, 1 hours long, costs us ₩ 1100. This translates to a whopping 72 cents (07-07-2010 conversion rate)
Bus and subway combined, 15 km and 40 minutes long, costs us ₩ 1100. Again, 72 cents

No matter where you live, that’s a deal. Japan comes close, Singapore will too. Nationale Spoorwegen (Dutch National Railways) . . . .  no. Not close. Not nearly close. You may spot it on the horizon, but you certainly won’t believe what you see.

It gets better. We live on a hill, you might’ve heard me say it’s 100 meters vertical from the subway/bus station to our house. When we get off the bus, we just wait for our green yellow bus #03 to take us up to the Hyatt hotel, and walk down to our house for no extra charge. That’s 2 transfers, 2 buses and a subway ride. Totaling 45 minutes, for 72 cents.

If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve not mentioned taxis yet.
Taxi culture here is quite different from Western Europe. Somewhere there’s a flip over point where you go from ‘very few, but expensive cab rides’, like the Netherlands, to ‘lots of readily available cheap cabrides’ and have it make economical sense. Korea isn’t the only country which has this. As Raph is quick to point out, other countries in S.E. Asia are cheaper still, but that’s probably because everything is cheaper in those countries.

When we moved from our office to our apartment I got a taxi. During rush hour, with extra costs for delay time and everything leading up to over an hour travel time, I rode a taxi across all of Seoul, for ₩ 14000. That’s €9.13. It used to costs me 6-7 euros to get a taxi from Delft station to my house. And while that is also all the way across a city, it really means 2.5 km and 5-10 minutes. During the night (High rate), coming back from Hongdae, some 11 km away as the crow flies, costs us ₩ 7000 (€4.50).

Can’t say much good about the national food identity yet, I still prefer a kroket to kimchi, but the public transportation in Seoul certainly beats what I was used to in the Netherlands.

* but I’m not going to

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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be

– Douglas Adams