A hanok interior courtyard in Buckchon Hanok Village

A Tale of Two Seoul Neighborhoods

When I checked into the Hotel Ibis Insadong in Seoul, South Korea, I was immediately fascinated by the view from my window. The hotel overlooks the Ikseon-dong Hanok Area, or perhaps I should say it looms over it. Ikseon-dong Hanok Area The neighborhood looks from above to be about a city block around, and is…

detail of the painting above the shrine in Daeseungwon Temple, Suwon, South Korea

Suwon’s Palace and Fortress

Suwon, South Korea, a city with more than a million inhabitants, is a separate city from Seoul, but it’s been swallowed up in the post-Korean War urban sprawl, so that it’s in the same metro system. Getting to Suwon from the center of Seoul involves a very long metro ride: more than an hour, and…

the cable car with Seoul Tower in the background

Seoul Tower Without a Date

Seoul Tower, perched on Namsan Mountain above Seoul, is visible everywhere, looking like some sort of 70’s version of the future. Built back in the 70’s for radio and television, it was and still is a communication tower. However, it’s also a destination for tourists and locals: a thing to do on a free weekend afternoon….

an x-ray of my neck

Physical Therapy, Korean-style!

On my recent trip to South Korea, my left arm began to hurt. I dismissed it as a muscle ache, probably from carrying my luggage up and down metro stairs. Little by little, though, it got worse. I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t find a position in which my arm didn’t hurt. When my arm started…

Changdeokgung Palace's ceremonial hall

Six (!) Seoul Palaces

Seoul is home to six different royal palaces, each built by or for a different king. Beautifully crafted and opulent, some are more intact and authentic than others. Authentic? The five older ones all include at least one tale of complete or partial destruction. All were burnt to the ground during the Japanese Invasion in the last decade…

Toile, the mascot of Mr. Toilet House, the Toilet Museum in Suwon, South Korea

Mr. Toilet House? A Toilet Museum in Suwon, South Korea

The big gold-colored statue of a turd right next to the entrance was enough to tell me that Mr. Toilet House, the toilet museum in Suwon, South Korea, wasn’t going to be a disappointment! Mr. Toilet House Believe it or not, “Mr. Toilet House” is the popular name for the Toilet Culture Museum in Suwon,…

view of Japan Rail train tracks

Traveling by Train in Japan: 8 tips

For those of us who do not know Japanese, traveling by train in Japan can be a bit daunting, to say the least. Here are some tips for Japan travel that will allow you to negotiate the Japanese rail system, including reading signs, without knowing any Japanese at all. Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links….

closeup of a Maiko performing at Gion Corner in Kyoto

Gion Corner: The Simplicity of Japanese Musical Art

A show that’s produced for foreign tourists can be an insulting oversimplification of local culture, or it can be an interesting peek into that culture. I wasn’t sure which I was getting when I agreed to go to a performance by Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation  at a venue called Gion Corner, in the famous…

close-up of a lotus flower in Ueno Park, Tokyo

5 Tokyo Gardens

I’m not particularly into gardens. I enjoy them, but don’t enjoy gardening. I visited a few gardens in Tokyo partly because I was curious about Japanese gardens in particular, and also curious as to how they are used by people in such a big city. But mostly I went to them because I wanted to…

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