Islands off Incheon, South Korea: Muui-do

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Revenge of the killer seagulls. Just lucky timing, on the way across from Jamjin-do to Muui-do.

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Fishing boat at Yeongjong Pier with Incheon City in the background

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Panorama of Incheon City in the horizon from Muui-do

It seems that autumn is finally upon us. Temperature has dropped to 20C on a sunny day like today. Looks like the right time to explore some islands off the city of Incheon. Island hopping is a term I wanted to use, but it is technically not really any hopping at all, since by public transport I would be lucky to even get to one island per day. What more, everything is in Korea here so I will have to guide by chance and by the grace of my GPS. Good light also means I can ditch my big camera and go light with a D300, lunch and plenty of water. Always ready for an adventure.

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Google Earth capture of the entire journey mapped by a GPS. Green path is the actual route taken throughout the day.

Getting to the island is a multi-transport discipline. On my research, it looks like the easiest way to get there is to get out of Seoul and get on the express train to Incheon Airport an then hop onto a bus. The alternative way going through Incheon and then a ferry ride to the Airport island looks to be a longer journey. In most cities, Seoul included, the authorities have this idea that tourists are beings meant to be fleeced, so for example a metro ride to Incheon city proper is less than half of what it cost to go to the airport. Price aside, I’ve said that getting out of the city to the airport by Metro is not an easy task. There are some signs at metro station that looks like you could get a A-REX express train to Incheon Airport at Seoul Station, but don’t make the mistake I did. There’s no train going to the airport as of 2010. The line should be ready in the future, but just not now. I wasted 1 hour looking for that phantom train. Some maps indicate that the line is there, but some doesn’t. Best way seems to be to get to Gimpo Airport using Line 9 and then hopping to the A-REX to Incheon Airport without getting out of the station at Gimpo Airport stop.

Outline for today therefore, to take metro to Incheon Airport and then onto one of the island next to it by bus. End the day with a ferry ride into Incheon city before dark. It doesn’t really matter how it turns out. What is clear is that I will have to take a bus over a causeway to Jamjin-do and then hop onto a ferry to Muui-do. Will make up the itinerary as I go along…

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Incheon City from Yeongjong Pier

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So now at Incheon airport, it takes a little bit of investigation to know where to go next. I used up at least 1 hr here figuring out that it is impossible to walk to the pier (2km away) because of the airport security, so a bus is the best option. Go to departure area on the 3rd floor and take bus 222. Unfortunately there is no way to know whether the bus is going to Jamjin island or to Yeongjong pier for the ride into Incheon city. Just have to take your chance or ask the driver.  Bus fare seems to be 1000W as I didn’t really pay attention to my stored value card as I put it on the sensor.

However I was one of the ones that got on the wrong bus as the first one I took was going to Yeongjong pier on the return trip from Jamjin-do. When I got there, it was time to wait for the next bus to go to the island I wanted to go in the first place. Good time killer is to hang around the pier and look at all the tent-restaurants that sprouted out at the parking lot, full of drunk Koreans munching on BBQ pork and kimchi.

After half and hour, it was time for the bus to start moving again. Somehow I have a feeling that there’s not more than 2 buses that services this route going from one end of the Incheon Airport island (that would be Yeongjong Island) to the other end. The bus goes through the airport to pick up more passengers (or victims) and then darts to the west, where I wanted to go, confirmed by my GPS. Right after the airport the bus turns left into a small lane full of korean restaurants, seemingly built so that patrons can look at the sun setting over the sea. After a while, going through a tight road and avoiding carks parked on both sides of the road, the bus goes over a causeway connecting Jamjin-do with larger Jeongyong-do where the airport is located. The bus stops in the small island just before the ferry point. Roads here are tight, as real estate is not plentiful. A building sells 3000 Won return tickets to Muui-do for pedestrians.

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Ferry connecting Jamjin-do with Muui-do

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Four lanes of cars, they go in on the left then make a u-turn at the end of the ship and get out the same way.

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Turkey: Kayseri

Prayers at Hunat Mosque, Kayseri
Bus Drivers at Kayseri's Yogunburc Street station

After Cappadocia, in the interest of making use of whatever time I have here in Turkey, I thought it was not too smart to be spending the whole day travelling. So next to the region of Nevsehir, is a large city called Kayseri which I could get to in a few hours, and if I am lucky, I can catch an overnight bus to Antakya all the way down south.

7 September 2009:
Kayseri is also called Caesarea in ancient times before the arabs conquered it. I suppose this is the famous Caesarea that I have heard about. No idea what is there but no harm checking it out to know (Ed: Apparently it is not, there is another Caesarea in Israel). Most people I’ve spoken to in Cappadocia were amazed I was going there as it has nothing to see there.

Urgup to Kayseri

1100hrs: Right on the dot, the bus starts leaving Urgup’s otogar for Kayseri. Fare: 6TL. The next bus to Kayseri is in 2 hours after lunch so it is perfect that I’m here at this time. The bus indicates that it goes to Nevsehir but I was assured it goes where I thought it was going. Along the way out of Urgup it stops to pick up passengers, and soon it is full, about 30+ passengers as my quick estimate puts it. As it passes the local police station, a policeman comes on board to check, possibly visual profiling, but I, being the only asian looking person, was not checked in detail. And in less than 10 mins we are on the road into the Cappadocian desert, dodging the occasional farmer’s donkey and tractor carts that takes up a whole lane on the road. This highway has 2 lanes and bidirectional, and rather devoid of any vehicles, meaning that the bus driver could drive as fast as he wants. Landscape are craggy hills, valleys with poplar trees and farms. Seems like there are plenty of pumpkin farms around. My GPS registers our speed at less than 90kmph.

Kayseri Otogar Interiors

Loading up water on a hot day at the otogar...

Exterior of Kayseri Otogar

1216hrs: Arrived at Kayseri Otogar after an hour on the highway. The otogar is made up of a few buildings in the outskirts of Kayseri city and one of the building houses the ticket booths. Saw one with a midnight bus to Hatay/Antakya so I took a sleeping berth, so I think, for 40TL which is about the most expensive bus trip thus far, but it saves the hotel expense so, could be worth it. The girl at the counter thought I was Japanese again, and I learnt from her Turkish for ‘hello’ is ‘merhabah’ (similar to arabic I thinks) and ‘goodbye’ is ‘gule gule’ which I see a lot while driving in the Cappadocian countryside in the last 3 days. This otogar looks modern and has plenty of shops. I see left luggage service too, which I will use to deposit my bags till tonight, and make a trip to Kayseri’s merkezi (town centre)!

Little ticket booth to buy bus tickets before boarding...

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Shanghai, China: Wusong Pier And Hengsha Island

Flower fields blossom at Wusong Park, yes strange way to start a post, but thought starting with a little colour might be appropriate here...
Summer is finally here. While I’d like to think that I have compiled a list of places to go in China, I rarely adhere to such lists anyway, and most destinations are off the seat of my pants. Last winter was reserved mainly for discovering new interesting back streets in Shanghai. Because of the cold, and the fact that most of my trip requires hours outdoors, it is a lot more comfortable to be close to home.

The first one the list, which has been on my want-to-do-list for some time, is a survey trip to Hengsha island. It desn’t really have to be Hengsha, Changxing is fine as well. The former is one of the larger islands on the Yangzi river mouth, where the Yangzi and the smaller Huangpu rivers meet. I’m not a geologist, but it does seem to form part of the Yangzi river delta, the famous Yangzi River Delta! Trip there requires a public bus to one of the ports where the two rivers meet, as I wrote this, I had no idea which port the boats leave, but Google maps does suggest that I start with Wusong pier and so it shall. Taking a taxi there would be the easiest, but since when has adventure about taking the easiest path? Buses are not really that dodgy in Shanghai, but just for the fun of it, why not the bus? There are many places to board buses that goes to Wusong pier, and I settled on the closest one so that I can avoid taxis.

The Yangzi river from Wusong battery park

Port of Shanghai at Pudong

Over the course of weeks I made a few trips to Wusong port and it took till the third trip before I made it to Hengsha Island, but none of the trips were a waste at all.

30 May 2009

Unlike most other trips I have made, I woke up a little late at 10 am this morning. Has to be the latest waking up time for me on a Saturday! After lunch and a little gear tinkering and packing, and just utter time wasting on twitter, I started leaving my apartment at 1 pm, knowing full well I might have missed the last boat to be able to return on the same day. Let’s face it, staying the night on some island I’ve never been to before in China is not exactly part of the plan today.

So what is in the bag today? Plenty of water since it is a hot day today. Took with me a innocent looking tote bag bought in Tokyo, filled with a Nikon D300, 12-24mm DX, 10.5mm DX and of course a 105mm f4 Macro AI in case the opportunity of insects, details and flowers present itself. Since there will be people to shoot as well, packed in my Leica M3 as well, along with a new 5cm Summitar collapsible lens. I just got this one back from a little repair work by John van Stelten from Focal Point in Colorado about a month ago, and it is time to see if this lens is any good for the price you pay (one of the cheapest Leica lens you can buy!). Film is of course, ERA100, and like I always say – chinese film for chinese people. Packed a Garmin GPS as well, and I can already feel that this unit is getting a little creaky old!

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Travels: Nanxiang, Shanghai, China

Pavillion at Guyi Garden, Nanxiang
Shanghai is famous for this little dumpling with thin skin and soup inside. Bite it and if still hot off the steamer, it guarantees a scalding where it hurts.

The most famous restaurant in shanghai that sells them by the bucketloads, figuratively speaking, is Nanxiang Restaurant over by that tourist hole, Yuyuan Garden right in the middle of the city. Its not too far from where I stay and on weekends, I sometimes take the walk over, and stand in the half and hour queue (if I’m lucky). Its not the best in Shanghai though and its quite obvious it’s famous because it’s famous, no more. Nanxiang Restaurant also starts to expand with branches overseas.

Shanghai Bus, encountered on the way looking for that bus that will take me to Nanxiang

So not to dwell too much in stories, I found out during a chat with a colleague that the xiao loong bao, what this tasty dumpling is called, was first invented in a town called Nanxiang. Just tens of kilometre from downtown Shanghai so close that a public bus (actually many from all points) runs there from the Shanghai railway station, so we found out after browsing the chinese languaged internet. So quickly this became my mission for the coming weekend.

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Travels: Guangxi Province, Guilin, China

Eroded landscape along Li River
The eroded landscapes around Guilin is one of those sceneries that one would think about when China comes to mind. The picture of many little karst hills in the countryside, and a calm river in the foreground with a lone fisherman. This is one of those areas I wanted to go before leaving China, and as famous as it is (meaning many tourists) I guess this is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. So then it is, I have managed to organize a trip to Guanxi province just after the Sichuan trip on the way back to Shanghai just to see it with my own eyes. Will be flying into Guilin directly from Chengdu.

20 November 2008: Landed in Guilin at 9 pm after an hour and a half from Chengdu. Small airport, obviously so compared to Chengdu and probably not a good comparison at all. Slept during the landing and since it was late at night, it was probably impossible to see anything. Temperature is a nice 13C at night. Balmy compared to Chengdu in the single digits.

Film used during the trip, including Sichuan Province

My luggage is one of the first to appear, good considering I was the last to check in! In 1 minute I was out of Guilin Liangjiang airport (yup, the official name) and into a Golden Dragon brand bus bound downtown. I’m not a guide book so I have no idea where this bus ends but it does go to Guilin Train Station and its where I am going. Dumped my backpack into the luggage hold and its time to wait 30 minutes. The cost of the bus to the train station from airport is 20 RMB. According to what people tell me, as long there is a flight arriving, there will be an airport bus.

Within 30 minutes the bus dropped me at Shanghai Road with a finger pointing to the direction of the train station, quite obvious it requires a bit of a walk. Looking at the GPS maps on my E71, I managed to find a signboard leading to the Flowers Youth Hostel in Guilin. I will have to walk through little alleys and small restaurants selling dodgy food (i’m sure it tastes good though) and mini travel agents. Hostel is on the second floor of a maze of buildings. No fanfare, I’d arrive, get the room, get a shower and do a little blogging and sleep to prepare for the next day to Yangshuo.

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 4, Jiuzhaigou National Park, China

Cotton-like plants are found all over Jiuzhaigou Park, with one of the colourful lakes forming the perfect backdrop
Jiuzhaigou is one of those places in china where it is said you can never miss and you have not been to a certain place if you have never seen it. It has definitely appeared many many times in pictures. First time I heard of it was a few years back when it was said it was very difficult to get to. I don’t know when they went or heard about it, but I see there are airports near the park, and there are official tourist buses going from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou with daily bus (yes, singular) and in the parks are roads going to all sights and mini buses plying the route. Surely not in accessible, but nevertheless, still a place not to be missed. We shall see if this is a boast or truth.

16 November 2008: Taking the 8 am bus to Jiuzhaigou from Chengdu’s Xinnanmen station. The bus station looks like a special station for tourist areas, but on the inside other than the metal detectors and xray machines, it looks like any other station. The buses look newer and the windows are fixed, so naturally I was afraid of the species known as the smoking chinese. But looks like the locals going to tourist places are a special type. During the whole trip, the guy in front of me had a half burnt cigarette in his fingers for hours but kept the urge to light it. In fact, no one smoked on this trip in the bus. Amazing show of patience. The only two things that irritated me were some passengers playing their songs on their mobile phone speakers and a guy eating process meat that smelled like coffee flavored chicken and a hint of chloroform. Smells nauseous. Overall, the trip was a lot nicer than the 12hrs bus to Xiaojing in part 2. Bearable.

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 3, Danba Town, China

Chillis left out to dry at Jiuju Village, Danba
More corn pictures, sorry...

Based on time killer recommendations from Joy from Sim’s Cozy over at Chengdu, I will make a one day stop over at Danba as the only way to get back to Chengdu from Rilong is to go through Xiaojing and Danba. It helps too that there are 2 daily buses (0630 and 0700) from Danba.

Ancient watch tower up close, Zhonglu village

Danba seems to be famous for two things. Everyone says the girls there are beautiful. Even best in china, but I have heard of that before in Suzhou. And as expected its because of the climate that gives them a nice complexion. And everyone here also says that the good looking ones are in Chengdu. Danba is also popular for the couple of tibetan villages around the town. Danba lies at the confluence of rivers, and in a deep valley. Some of the scenic villages are perched high on top of steep mountains. 14 November 2008, Rilong to Danba: It was a 0700 pickup by the same Mr Zhang that brought me to Rilong from Xiaojing. We arranged a trip to Danba for 300 RMB, about 150 km away and a day trip to 3 villages around Danba for an extra 100 RMB. Plus the 150 RMB I owed him from last sunday. While I know the driver normally runs a mien bao car (private hire vans that pick up anyone anywhere between set destinations), I allowed him to pick up 2 ladies to drop near Xiaojing. With the 17 RMB we made, he brought me to the best beef noodle place in Xiaojing. From what I can see, salt, soya sauce, plenty of hand pulled noodles, mountain cow beef, bamboo shoots, coriander and plenty of chilli and you have a serious bowl of best noodles I have tasted in china so far. I have seen many mountain cows in Siguniang and its the first time I have tasted it.

Mountain road on the way to one of the mountain top villages around Danba

After a heavy bowl of beef noodles in Xiaojing it’s time to continue to Danba. I will visit the villages first before buying bus ticket and finding a place to stay in Danba.

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 1, Chengdu, China *Partial*

Its been a long time waiting and before I could even prepare for it, I got off MU5407 here in Chengdu (airport code: CTU) on a one week and a half trip. Total I will spend outside Shanghai will be 2 weeks and this includes Guilin which will be the subject of another post once I get to it. Flight was bearable, food was Crap as usual, and again full of oversized babies and their grandparents. Inflight meal consists of a paper box filled with an assortment of buns, crackers, pickles and strange mix of edible stuff. Thank god for ipods.
Chengdu Airport Bus queue

8 November 2008, Shanghai to Chengdu: From the airport, bus 303 seems to go to Chengdu city. Was reading about bus 300 but I did not see it. Bus trip cost 12 RMB and comes with insurance, although it seems lost in my mind how we will claim our own insurance should something untowardly happens along the way. As with any bus in china, this bus even comes with its own tour guide. In my half baked putong hua, sounds like its 30 minutes away. Good. Nap time.

Spent the afternoon walking around Chengdu and there is a nice street where everything is old and has a market. Naturally my leica came out to play there. Chengdu definitely looks more refined than other cities in China, other than Shanghai and Beijing of course. Its quite obvious this is not a poor place.

Transporting items by bicycle is common in the backstreets of Chengdu

Everywhere you go in Chengdu there are hotpot restaurant. I’m tempted to try them but I travelled alone so it will be wasteful to gobble down a whole load of soup with floating chilies. But I promised myself I need to try it or I have never been to Sichuan.

Waiting for the bus, China style...

Language: I swear I don’t have too much of an issue with the local Sichuanese dialect, at least I understand it as much as I do putonghua, which is not too bad, but people I meet here sometimes tell me its difficult to understand locals. The dialect sounds like a bastardized version of putonghua in a song singing way.

Continue reading “Travels: Sichuan Province Part 1, Chengdu, China *Partial*”

Travels: Okutama, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan

View from Okutama Dam (Ricoh GR Digital)
Okutama is an area of wilderness in Tokyo prefecture, lodged on the western end of it, looks close to Tokyo but according to schedules, takes almost the same amount time to get to as Nikko. The plan would be to hike from the train station to the lake and then back. Figured 4-5hrs hike to get there.

Okutama Forest  (Leica M2 + Summicron 35mm ASPH)

Traveling light today. Only cameras are the Ricoh, which comes along with me everywhere and a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron ASPH lens. Weather is 50% chance of rain, which in my experience means sure chance of a drizzle. Whether or not it will get me wet is another story. This trip sees my old GPS tagging along, fresh from its stint in New Zealand last week and a newly charged battery to boot. Shouldn’t have the urge to buy overpriced batteries anymore.

Something about this pile caught my eye, has to be the neoprene suit  (Leica M2 + Summicron 35mm ASPH)

0804hrs: On the Chuo rapid line to Tachikawa station before switching to a train that hopefully ends up at Okutama. This rapid train seems to stop at Musashi-Kagonei. A swith will be required to get to Tachikawa.

I should be going to Okutama now (Ricoh GR Digital)

0844hrs: Train change at Tachikawa. Surprisingly large train station this. Chuo line is on platforms 3-6 and Ome line that goes to Okutama in on platform 1-2. Only problem for me is that the first train i see on the platform goes towards Okutama but stops short in Kabe. looks like another stop is in order here.

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