Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Have you heard of Jumunjin? No, neither had I until I went there. I’m always slightly wary of giving away information on less obvious places, but as the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang approaches it’s definitely worth knowing about.

Juminjin is a small beach suburb of the bigger city called Gangneung on Korea’s East Coast. Gangneung is famous for beaches and coffee and is also the venue for the indoor winter sports for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. You can reach Jumunjin  in about 20 mins from down town Gangneung and it’s only a short hop through the mountains to the outdoor alpine events in Pyeongchang County.

The town of Jumunjin is a simple fishing place with a great backdrop of the Seorak mountains. If you are familiar with the East Coast of Korea it’s like a mini Sokcho, which is no bad thing; Sokcho is one of my favourites! The best thing about Jumunjin is that it’s compact which means you can see  interesting places within a 10 minute walk of your hotel. There is the usual mixture of Korean style motels and some bigger resort type places near the beach. However, if you are an international traveller with international standards the best bet seems to be a recently renovated property ‘The Winners Hotel’. This place is set back from the seafront but it’s got a view over the single story fish places in front. it has easy access to the restaurants, coffee shops and some of the places offering boat tours. The hotel feels brand new and it has been finished in a boutique kind of way with tasteful furniture and pieces of contemporary art. Aside from the fixtures and fittings the absolute best thing about staying here is the view over the sea. It’s well worth waking up early to take in the sunrise on a clear day. The balconies are pretty large so you can sit out and enjoy a coffee whilst watching the squid boats come in.

 

Walk along the front if it’s not too windy, but if the wind does come in you can retreat back to the main fish market – parallel to the port area. I’m always happy to look around fish markets because where there is a fish market there are inevitably great restaurants. The main draw of Juminjin is the quality of crabs, there are endless tanks with the imperial crabs grappling over the sides. Having tried the crabs on previous visits to the East Coast I opted for something more economical, and surprisingly, something I hadn’t tried before – Mussels with Rice or ‘Honghapbap’. Not only was this meal amazing, the side dishes were plentiful and pretty tasty. I was astounded that the set menu I ordered also had a full mackerel as well.

 

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The photographs below show the restaurant which is just next to the fish market. You cannot miss the fish market because there is a giant whale guarding the entrance.

Despite waking up with the after effects of soju, the early morning wind freshened me up.  A big surprise for me in this small place was that above the fish market there is a quirky coffee theme park. This includes something for everyone. I actually just wanted to get a coffee but the brunches are really good, and if that wasn’t enough I even want through the trick eye gallery. These are getting commonplace in Korea but they are still fun and they bequeath you a load of novelty photos which lighten the mood for the serious travellers like myself! My favourite was playing pool inside a Van Gogh masterpiece – Dr Gache was looking on to make sure I wasn’t cheating. The coffee was high quality as they have their own roasting machine which you can see up close.

If you are considering getting away from the hoards of tourists either for winter sports or summer beaches then this little place comes recommended. I would also think about stopping here on an East Coast scenic tour. Gangneung is not a large city but it’s quite spread out, with this in mind it was very convenient to have everything on the doorstep of the hotel.

Further information:

Getting to Gangneung and Jumunjin:

At the time of writing the high-speed train has not yet been completed. It is possible by train but it takes a long time and you would have to change in Wonju.

By bus: The easiest terminal is Dong Seoul which has services to both Gangneung and Juminjin. It takes about 2h50 and costs W15,000 to Gangneung

Winners Hotel – Google Maps

The Hotel has recently been converted so it may still be listed as a motel. It’s walkable from the small intercity bus terminal. Head for the seafront and fish market area, the entrance is through a small opposite the boat tours.

Visit Korea Website – Jumunjin Beach

Gangneung Tourism (English Language)

 

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I have visited London many times, and as a UK citizen I feel almost as if I am a resident of the great metropolis. Even though I feel disenfranchised with previously strong institutions, I still claim a stake in the capital which I wouldn’t in other cities of the UK. In this greyish vacuum between being a tourist and local, I often feel a deep sadness and nostalgia when I visit places which have changed in directions which I feel a little queezy about.

Without doubt, my favourite location in London is the area between Liverpool Street and Brick Lane – where Whitechapel meets Shoreditch. Every time I have visited London I have made an attempt to get there. It’s a well worn route so I will try to describe to describe it with various layers of time piled on top of each other. As I try to imagine it I realise that it’s not a journey thought the actual locality but more of a journey through my own memories of the place.

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I leave the station and walk down through the large banks of the City of London. The City of London Police station is where I once spent some time, a very brief time. I was once interrupted during an outdoor McDonald’s breakfast by two very polite policemen who wanted me to take part in an identity parade. They spoke in that dusty old man London accent that you get in original Sherlock Holmes dramas with Jeremy Brett, the accent used by Johnny Depp in the ripper movie. I obliged and spent some time standing next to various young adults, all of whom had short dark hair and a similar build to myself. Since I was a teenager I have always been followed in shops and generally suspected of wrongdoings, this was the final proof. The lawyer decided that we were not right so I never actually got to have the witnesses inspect me. There was an element of anxiety despite the Police telling us that it’s impossible for any of the identity parade to be incorrectly sent down. I think I may have watched too many movies to fully believe them. Anyway, I got paid so I was happy

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Outside the police station I head down the Bishopsgate  then make a right turn into the wide street running down to Spitalfield’s Market. I love the houses in this part of London, they are very London in colour and seem to watch disapprovingly as their friends and neighbours  get turned into start-up tech firms and overpriced bistros. I think most of the houses and buildings were used as storehouses and shop-fronts when the East India Company was still going. At leasts some of the pubs seem to have remained intact and kept their character – like the 10 Bells on the corner. I walk through the line of franchises into the vast market, a lady with a local accent mistakes me for a foreign tourist because I don’t shave and I wear sunglasses ” I fought you woz Spanish or samfink!” I smile and move on to another stall. The cafes get hipper and seem expensive so I plot my escape. Opposite the  large right angle of original terraces I am  interrupted by the eccentricity of Hawkmoor’s church on the corner. This spawns a cross London quest in which I try to visit as many Hawksmoor churches as possible. The quest is made all the more interesting by running out of battery and forgetting my A to Z map of London.

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Christchurch looks on silently as if unaffected by the earthly pursuits of buying vintage furniture and comparing new cocktails. For Christchurch guards one of the points of the underworld pentagram which connects the other Hawksmoor Churches. The streets near Fournier Street remind us of the Huguenots and of course Jack the Ripper. This part of London has always been the first port of call for many immigrant communities. In some cases they only remain in the proper nouns of streets and surnames, in others they can still be smelt. As I approach Brick Lane I enjoy the smell of the Bangladeshi spices in the numerous curry houses. I’m sure they are good but I have no intention of eating there. A brief sensation of Northern pride prevents me from analysis, Manchester’s Curry Mile must be much better. Brick Lane is colourful and bewildering, the novelty of Bengali Street names on such typically domestic streets quickly wears off as I spot Rough Trade East. The ghost of John Peel tells me to go in and find a gem but I settle for a catalogue instead. I really really want to buy a T Shirt but I have never been good at being a fan of anything. Moderation stops my impulse buys and hunger takes over.

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I have a OCD capacity to know everything about food. One of those foods is the humble bagel – invented in Poland for pregnant women. The bajgiel was eaten by the Yiddish speaking Jewish community in Krakow. Many of the Jewish diaspora emigrated to this part of London too. One of my many food quests led me to search out two beigel shops towards the end of Brick Lane. After getting past the post industrial chic of the warehouses I finally make it. It seemed like a shorter journey in my head but it doesn’t matter because salt beef makes everything vanish. If mindfulness is living in the moment and forgetting all other thoughts then I may have just experienced it. The lady put huge quantities of salt beef on the בײגל and then doused it in strong English mustard. I stand on a corner eating my beygl and my journey stops.
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I’m not sure why people choose to eat cereal for double the price but that’s the price of being hip these days. I backtrack to the cereal killer cafe because it wasn’t there when I last walked past. I noticed the cereal fetish with many North Americans in Korea. Someone tried to explain it to me once but I didn’t understand. I believe it may be mixture of nostalgia and brand loyalty. I appreciated the concept and quirkiness of the imported cereal, and I do admire the willingness to follow crazy ideas. However, I think I fall into the category of feeling slightly ashamed that people would spend a fiver on a bowl of cereal when you could buy a full box and a pint of milk round the corner. My breakfast habits have changed beyond recognition since wolfing down crunchy-nut cornflakes as a kid. These days I only eat oatmeal or refrain from cereal all together. If you think it’s difficult to quit eating cereal, I assure you it’s not – just read the ingredients. Most of what you find in boxes of cereal is pseudo food and by the way, what does fortified actually mean? I’ve never found a castle in my cereal.

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My hunger is busted now so I try to find a coffee. If all coffee is a little overpriced and if most cafes look and feel the same then why not go for something different? This is why I choose to support another hipster, and if you wanted proof then he has the beard to prove it. I get a coffee from a converted black cab. Admiration and anti-hipster reflexes conflict again in my conscience. The solid authenticity of this neighbourhood really does clash with some of the modern elements. If anything, Shoreditch and its environs echo what is going on the real world day to day. There is no authentically industrialised inner city any more. There are no jobs for life, no job security. The service sector has taken over. You don’t need to make anything or be good at anything. You just need a new concept and hope people are dumb enough to buy into it. I leave my favourite neighbourhood with mixed feelings and as if to raise more questions Russell Brand walks past me whilst nattering into his mobile. Is he an authentic East End boy done good, looking out for social justice? Or, is he just another hipster?

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Here is Charles Bridge:

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