A Travellerspoint blog

Hangeul

An educational moment.

The written Korean is an artificial language, invented in the 15th century by scholars during a 3 year retreat at the order of the king, who wanted to give access to written language to the people who could not afford to learn Chinese. Fir a long time Chinese characters and Hangeul, the new language, coexisted. No more.

The Korean language has a number of big advantages over Chinese. It is not tonal. Chinese syllables can have up to 5 different meanings depending on whether the tone goes up, down, remains flat, goes up and then down, down and then up. I tried very hard when I arrived in Singapore and failed. I have no ear. Secondly: it has an alphabet. 28 letters that combine into words that combine into sentences. How neat. Third, it is a phonetic language, much more than English. I can read Korean aloud and people will understand, even if I don’t understand what I read. A letter can be pronounced in different ways depending on what follows, but there are rules. In short: it’s do-able. The grammar is another matter, as people speak differently depending on the status and the personal relationship with the counterpart – the so-called honorifics – but as a foreigner of a certain age, I can afford to simplify. Learning Korean will be difficult enough though, but it seems to be an excellent remedy against Alzheimer.

Posted by jefvincent 11:50 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

the cherry blossoms have arrived

sunny 18 °C

3 April was our last day in Jeju and we had to return the car in the morning. We tried to catch whatever was in our action radius. In the end we walked 15 km.
The first stop was at a fish restaurant, actively researched by Shin and indeed. It was probably the best meal we had since we started our journey and You should know how fond I am of Laksa and green curry. Soup with seafood and sea urchin, another soup with full size abalone, sea cucumber and clams, a cold soup with pears and another variation on abalone. Impossible to share the experience with words, sadly and the pictures won’t help either. We arrived early and by the time we left there was a long queue, in this small village far from the town centre.
The next stop was a rock called dragonhead. We stayed 30 seconds. The big target for the day was the cherry blossom festival. It had been warmer and sunny for 2 days and our guess was that it would be enough for the buds to explode. There was no festival as such, but we found the street with the cherry trees that formed a pink tunnel. Unfortunately a lot of traffic, when I think about cherry blossoms I imagine them with a temple in the background or at least without motorized background noise. Still beautiful, and I concentrated to take pictures of the tunnel without the machines below. On the way we found mount Halla in the distance, I wonder how it would be to climb it on such a beautiful day.

Posted by jefvincent 06:57 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Sam Taegeuk

sunny 19 °C

Before we leave Korea, a small word about the best known Korean symbol: the three-part grand ultimate symbol. It was widely used in Korean Shamanism, neo Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism for many centuries and it should not surprise you that it has acquired different meanings spread over space and time. In the most common interpretation Blue is symbol for the heaven, Red is the earth and Yellow refers to humanity. The form shows the interaction between the 3 elements: heaven influences earth, which influences humanity, which influences heaven…
In other interpretations (but mostly in China) Blue is heaven, Yellow is earth and Red is humanity.
It doesn’t seem to matter which colour is where. The yellow for humanity in the first version refers to the skin, the red in the second version refers to the blood.
The Dam Taegeuk symbol is related to the better known black and white Yin-Yang symbol, that was mostly used in China.

I took the pictures during the change of the guard at the Deoksugung palace, more about that in another entry.

Posted by jefvincent 04:00 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Seongsan Ilchulbong

semi-overcast 14 °C

We should have been there by 6:30 AM to see the sunset, but that was against our biorhythm and former religions, we had a late morning trip instead
Seongsan is probably the most famous image from Jeju, and it features on most of publications and billboard advertisements of the island and even Korea. Unfortunately the spectacular view is available only from above, and since I am not a drone I just include the display at the airport.
According to the tourist information Seongsan is the result of a volcanic eruption in sea 5,000 years ago, and the subsequent continuous erosion of the porous rock that eventually became the sediment that today links Seongsan to the main island. We went up, saw the crater, and went down. What a crater is this for someone who has climbed mount Longonot 10 times?

The basis of Seongsan as well as Starbucks are the starting point of Olle nr.1, and that was very nice, although the views were not really spectacular. Eventually we lazily followed the coast to return to Jeju city, just in time to catch the sunset. Short entry, happy day.

Posted by jefvincent 03:11 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Walking the Olle

semi-overcast 13 °C

So far we followed parts of three Olle tracks. Tracks 7 and 8 are very well marked and they brought us to spectacular cliffs. When the volcano magma flows into the sea it can crystallise into large hexagonal basalt columns that still stand hundreds of thousand years later. The structures are sometimes so precise and regular that Mr. Berlitz, whose books like “Were the Gods Astronauts?” I read with interest 50 years ago, claimed that they had been cut by ancient civilisations that reported directly to aliens. Besides that the coastline was beautiful and showed unexpected twists and turns, and that was enough to forget (for a short time) the cold and the wind and the absent cherry blossoms.

Posted by jefvincent 15:51 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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