A Tale of Four Cities

March 13, 2010 by  
Filed under magazine, News

For our Issue 02 of the magazine, we share with you travel tales from four cities all over Asia – Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Seoul – and much more!

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In this issue
+ Shanghai Hip
+ Singapore’s Dempsey
+ The Heart of Seoul
+ Sydney’s Culture Capital
+ Tasty Taiwan
+ The Art of Humanity
+ Asia’s Little Dragon
+ Wellness for the Soul
+ Chic Melbourne
+ Jakarta Capital Treats
+ Bali, Romance in Paradise

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Buddhist Temple at Mount Sorak

September 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Nature, Uniquely Far East

About one and a half hours drive away from Seoul, South Korea, is beautiful laid-back Mount Sorak. This mountain region offers mesmerizing views and numerous hiking treks for the nature lovers, and at the foot of the mountain are various Buddhist temples from centuries of old. Here are some scenic snaps from the foot of the mountain, featuring lush green landscapes, colorful guardian statues (left, third row) and a magical water fountain (right, second row). Be sure to come back next week as we bring you more snaps, this time from the top of Mount Sorak itself!

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This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.

The Best of South Korea

July 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Uniquely Far East

You’ve already read about how tasty South Korean food is, but what else is going on in this small peninsula? Quite a lot in fact, a great combination of nature and man-made attractions. Here’s a sampler set of backdrops that are some of the best spots to visit in South Korea.

Gyeongbok Palace. Photo credit - Laszlo Photo.

Gyeongbok Palace. Photo credit - Laszlo Photo.

Seoul (of course)

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and the largest city, so more than likely you’ll find yourself here at some point during your visit. It’s a bustling place, with a raging bar scene (the Koreans are heavy drinkers against most standards) and the metro area is extremely expensive, so if you’re on a budget be forewarned. It’s craziness and massive sprawl is only surpassed by Tokyo; but it’s an experience not to be missed.

The Namdaemun glows impressively at night. Photo credit - Tyler Durden.

The Namdaemun glows impressively at night. Photo credit - Tyler Durden.

The Namdaemun (also known as the Sungnyemun) is a historic gate that was one of Seoul’s most gorgeous structures, particularly striking at night with the backdrop of water fountains and skyscrapers. The neighboring market of the same name is also a great stop to watch the hurried activity of shoppers and browsers. Unfortunately, the gate was nearly destroyed by arson last year – so the gate is looking quite sad and poignant at the moment.

Seoul shopping frenzy. Photo credit - chromogenic1.

Seoul shopping frenzy. Photo credit - chromogenic1.

If you can’t find what you need in the markets, head for Myeongdong, Seoul’s shopping district. It’s a bit difficult to describe – something akin to Las Vegas, but shops instead of casinos. There are department stores as well as street vendors, so it has a strange mix of options. Needless to say, if you can’t find it here, you probably didn’t look hard enough.

Lastly, don’t miss the “Five Grand Palaces of Seoul”, all of which are fairly easy to access. Gyeongbokgung  is one of the most majestic (even despite restoration still ongoing from WWII damage), but it is said many of the kings of the Joseon Dynasty – who had the palaces built – preferred to spend their time in Changdeokgung.

Jeju Island. Photo credit - don.lee.

Jeju Island. Photo credit - don.lee.

Jeju Island

Jeju island (“Jejudo”) off the southwest coast of Korea is a place filled with my mysterious yet wonderful sights. Besides hidden waterfalls and gorgeous coastlines, you’ll find the remains of the volcano which created this island, ruins of Stone Age villages, and spooky stone statues littered about the island. It’s a favorite for honeymooners, especially in the spring and fall when the island’s wildflowers are in bloom.

The island is popular stop, with low cost, frequent air service giving travellers even more reason to stop in. You’ll get the usual island fare of attractions in full supply: endless beaches, picture-postcard waterfalls, striking cliffs, and caves to explore. There are also several museums and theme parks to see. Consider coming in February for the crowded Jeju Fire Festival.

Ganghwa Dolmen. Photo credit - Friars Balsam.

Ganghwa Dolmen. Photo credit - Friars Balsam.

Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa

The areas of Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa are UNESCO protected heritage sites where you can see wonderful examples of “dolmen,” or prehistoric (neolithic) cemeteries. The stone monuments come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from unimpressive to completely bizarre. These are the same structures you’ll find elsewhere in the world, but for some reason here in South Korea they are highly concentrated.

Gochang is the largest and has some of the more unusual displays, but Ganghwa Island, about an hours drive off Seoul, has one of the most important dolmen to South Korean people. The Chamsungdan was believed to be the site where the state of Gojoseon (Modern-day Korea) was first founded in the year 2333 BCE. South Korean people celebrated this every year on the 3rd of October, which is known as Gaecheonjeol, or by the english name of National Foundation Day.

If You Go

Public transport seems to be running pretty well in South Korea; from the expansive subway network in Seoul to the high-speed express trains covering the rest of the country, it is easy to get around quickly. Keep in mind that in many instances you’ll have more than one option (say, train or plane) and in some cases prices range can be different, so consider your options before booking, especially if you’re on a budget and looking to squeeze out an extra Korean won.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.

South Korea – Seoul Food

June 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Gourmet, Uniquely Far East

South Korean food just so happens to be one of my favorite, right up there along with Japanese food (it’s similar, but different). As such, I was delighted to be trying out all kinds of delicacies on my last visit to Seoul, South Korea. Here are some snaps from my culinary adventures in soulful Seoul!

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To start with, here are some street-side snacks easily found all over Seoul. The one on the right is a long wooden stick with pieces of chicken stuck into it. The sweet marinated meat is then grilled to tender perfection and served hot!

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On the left is Korean fried rice, with a generous serving of eggs layered into the dish itself. While on the right is a giant bowl of chillies in soy sauce, a common condiment it seems. Fortunately, it looks spicier than it tasted.

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Here on the left is one of my favorite meals, other than the grilled meat buffet you’ll find further down. It’s called Bi Bim Bap, loosely translated as Korean Mixed Rice. It’s a serving of meat and various steamed vegetables over rice, with an egg on top of it served on hot-stone bowl. You mix the ingredients together, “cooking” it just the way you like it before eating it right off the hot-stone. On the right is Ginseng Chicken, which you add taste and flavor by pouring alcohol (soju I believe) into it.

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And here now is my personal favorite, BBQ meat, or as they call it, Bulgogi. Slices of beef (chicken or pork works as well) are marinated in sweet bulgogi sauce before cooked to suit each person’s taste and eaten with various side dishes.

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On the left is how I prefer my Bulgogi, thin slices of meat combined with garlic and a dash of chili (hidden), then wrapped in fresh lettuce. Yumm! Also, Korean meals come with various side dishes such as pictured on the right. Our table is always a beautiful mess!

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Finally, something creepy I saw to end this post. Maggots? Larvae? Not too sure. But I stumbled upon them quite often while I was in Korea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t gather enough courage to try them out.


This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.

T-Express at the Everland

March 26, 2009 by  
Filed under General Fun, Uniquely Far East

After showcasing the scenic routes around Christchurch, New Zealand in the past two Photo Fridays, I decided to switch focus elsewhere, less you all get bored with same old same old.

I visited Everland in South Korea late last fall, and the main attraction there was the T-Express, this gigantic wooden roller-coaster. I have to be honest, I’m no coaster expert, so I was very surprised to find out that it was supported with wooden base. Initial thoughts? Not safe! But hey, there are people sitting on it, and they’re either having so much fun, or just scared to death screaming their lungs out. Probably both.

Some stats for the coaster-freaks. Length: 5383’ 10”. Height: 183’ 9”. Drop: 150’ 11”. Inversions: 0. Speed: 64.6 mph. Max Vertical Angle: 77 Degrees.

The ascend towards the first drop was the one final chance you’ve got to say your last prayers. After that, we accelerated and zoom! It was hard to do anything else but scream! Great fun!

The video starts with an overview of the wooden coaster. If you want to skip straight to the first-person view of the ride, go to 2:45.

And just recently I found this great list on the world’s best roller coaster. Oh good Lord! T-Express couldn’t hold a candle to these monsters!

This post is part of Photo Friday, a Blog Carnival held by Delicious Baby. Check them out for more photo-sharing goodness, or take part in the carnival yourself!

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Freelance graphic artist and travel fanatic. Twiter-addict and social media novice. Adventure budget traveler and stay home weekend worker. Before working on Unearthing Asia, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now that he’s settled down for the time being, he’s focusing his efforts on Unearthing Asia.

Locked in Everlasting Love

February 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Feature Highlights, Uniquely Far East

Locks and love aren’t exactly synonymous. Love after all, was supposed to set you free. But at the N Seoul Tower in Namsan Park, South Korea, you’ll find thousands and thousands of locks symbolizing the love between couples. Unearthing Asia takes a peek behind this unusual tradition that has seen tourists both locals and internationals alike flock the site.

A spectacular night view of Seoul from up at the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - ziczic90

A spectacular night view of Seoul from up at the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - ziczic90

With a spectacular night view of Seoul and a wide range of restaurants, the N Seoul Tower (simplified as just Seoul Tower) is emerging as a hot spot for a growing number of romantics, both young and old. Located in central Seoul in the middle of Namsan Park, the tower reaches 480 meters above sea level, allowing a luxurious view of the entire city and the surrounding areas.

During the weekend, the tower is almost always full with visitors, both locals and tourists alike. Most visitors ride the Namsan cable car up the mountain, and then hike up to the tower. As I made my way up towards the base of the tower, I spotted plenty of couples mixed with various groups large and small. Obviously, it was a popular place for lovers, tho I can’t understand why quite yet – I personally prefer peace and quiet for a romantic date, instead of large crowds and boisterous teenagers.

Inside the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - hyku

Inside the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - hyku

The Seoul Tower is actually a communication tower built in 1969, and opened to the public in 1980. At the foot of the tower, there is a plaza with various amenities and facilities. You can find a Food Court, various Multi-Media Show and Media Art installations, as well as a Lobby & Media Zone whose seats were cunningly designed to fit two people just nicely. A great place to relax and enjoy the view.

There is also the Pavilion, a cultural experience space with performances and exhibitions for adults and children. Outside the plaza, the Teddy Bear Museum is always popular with the girls, with cutesy illustrations of Korea’s cultural history.

I eagerly made my way up towards the sky terrace attached to the tower. The air is cool and breezy, with a great open view of Seoul. “This is probably better than the view up at the top, from behind those glass walls,” I thought to myself. The freedom of being out in the open air always excites me, and this was no different.

Because of the large crowd, I had to push my way through to get to the edge of the fences, and thats when I found out why this place was so popular with the romantics.

Thousands of locks adorn the fences on the terrace at Seoul Tower. Photo credit - Jinho.Jung

Thousands of locks adorn the fences on the terrace at Seoul Tower. Photo credit - Jinho.Jung

Thousands of locks adorn the fences, hung by couples both young and old, with the keys thrown away to ensure that the sweethearts’ vows to never separate are kept forever.

Now the idea of a lock as a symbol of love is a double-edged sword. Its a promise and commitment to being together, a vow to never separate. At the same time, it is also the end of freedom, a symbol of being caged in prison for the rest of your life. Fortunately for us, Seoulites has embraced the former much more than the latter.

This idea originated from local tourists a few years ago who saw the same thing at Tokyo Tower. Recently, it’s enjoying a renewal after two stars dated there in a popular reality show. Since then, locals flock the site, and international tourists have similarly embraced this novel idea.

Most of the locks are decorated with writings, drawings and stickers while some cannot even be called locks. Some used chain locks for bikes shaped as hearts, as well as pink and red heart-shaped ribbons on their locks.

The chain fence is in danger of buckling down under the increasing weight. Photo credit - stari4ek

The chain fence is in danger of buckling down under the increasing weight. Photo credit - stari4ek

Unfortunately, the chain link fence was not designed to accommodate this extra weight. As more and more locks are left behind, the weight increases and the fences are starting to bend. With the locks filling the whole area, its almost impossible for children to enjoy the surrounding view. Since the tradition includes throwing away the keys to the lock, there is also a danger that other people under the terrace might be hit.

Romantics from all over the world certainly hope that this beautiful tradition can continue, but what can be done to safe the overburdened chain fences? Simply replacing it with a new one may prove to be an unpopular decision with the various couples whose locks adorn the fence. In the mean time however, Seoul Tower’s locks of Love remains a memorable, must-do event for both local and foreign tourists.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Freelance graphic artist and travel fanatic. Twiter-addict and social media novice. Adventure budget traveler and stay home weekend worker. Before working on Unearthing Asia, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now that he’s settled down for the time being (till 2010) in Jakarta, he’s focusing his efforts on social media and his location-independent-service-provider career.

Cheonggye Stream – The Heart of Seoul

February 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Feature Highlights, Uniquely Far East

Cheonggye. The very meaning of the name, “clear creek”, implies a natural clear water flowing through Seoul’s city center. A refreshing breeze of picturesque canopy, it shelters its various inhabitants from the steel glare of modern Seoul.

An abundance of fish glides their way around, among reeds, plants and small stepping stones placed at intervals throughout the stream. Its hard to believe all this exists literally seconds away from the towering skyscrapers of Seoul. Even harder yet to imagine the dry and polluted concrete that lies on top of it a mere five years ago.

During the first half of the century, squatters filled the stream as Seoul’s homeless sought refuge there in makeshift shelters. The stream broke its banks whenever it rained, making the area reek of sewage. In 1968, it was paved over and buried beneath an elevated crosstown highway. By the turn of the century, it had all been dead and buried, forgotten by Seoul’s inhabitants except for one, Lee Myung-Bak, Seoul’s now president of South Korea.

An ambitious project to restore the stream was launched, starting with the concrete flyover – out it went and in came 20 scenic bridges in its place. The stale, stinking water was flushed out and restored. Along with the new water, almost 11km of greenery and wildlife came as well.

Seoulites loved it. The beautiful night lights and natural embrace of the stream serves as an oxygen mask in a city that is quickly outgrowing its capacity to expand. To many, the stream provides a much-needed breath of fresh air, even as the supply to this “oxygen mask” is just as artificial.

The problem is that during spells of dry weather, Cheonggye Stream would be nothing but a cracked stream bed. In order to keep it flowing all year round, water is now pumped from the Han River and from nearby sources. Detractors pointed out that the government has created a faux vision of nature instead of restoring the natural ecosystem here.

Even so, it seems harsh to focus only on these and dismiss the stream as a sham. Follow the windy breeze next to the river and you’ll notice right away how Seoulites have embraced the stream.

Families gathered around Palseokdam – a pond carpeted with various rare stones – to enjoy a breath of fresh air while their children squeals in delight as they spot ducks and cranes. Couples strolled arm in arm, enjoying the refreshing breeze and the occasional jet of water. Colorful murals adorn the walls flanking the stream. Further along, both the stream and its walkway grow wider, and nature truly takes over with an abundance of trees, fish and birds.

Cheonggye’s successes were plenty, and though mistakes were made – both cultural and technical – it shouldn’t detract from its achievement. The government has managed to reclaim an area of natural beauty in the heart of a bustling city, breathing life back into its downtown.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Freelance graphic artist and travel fanatic. Twiter-addict and social media novice. Adventure budget traveler and stay home weekend worker. Before working on Unearthing Asia, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now that he’s settled down for the time being (till 2010) in Jakarta, he’s focusing his efforts on social media and his location-independent-service-provider career.