Sunday, March 11, 2007

Korea - The World's Only Divided Country

The demilitarized zone (DMZ), designated in 1953 when the Armistice Agreement was signed, marks the site of the division.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone - to give more distance away between North and South Korea. The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) goes right down the center of the DMZ (the border).
From the Dorasan Unification Observatory Platform, North Korea appears very extremely close.
A glimpse of the North. Photography is prohibited in most of the area, therefore no good view shots.
The highlight of the DMZ Tour was visit to one of the tunnels - there are four of them. The 3rd Tunnel (Third North Korea Infiltration Tunnel) was discovered on October 17, 1978. It is located 52km from Seoul. When this tunnel (150 metres underground) was discovered, North Koreans insisted steadfastly that it was made by South Koreans to invade North Korea, but this proved to be false.
The South hopes for peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula. The resumption of the railroad link has made Dorasan Station not the last station from the South but the first station toward the North - linking North and South and beyond.
Dorasan is only 56 kilometers north of Seoul and 205 kilometers south of Pyongyang.
The Freedom Bridge which was used by refugees from the North.
Will North Korea freezes its nuclear weapon program ? And will unification still feasible in coming years ? Let's hope for the best as Korea is the only divide country in the world.

Seoul - Cheong Gye Cheon

This time the trip to Seoul was a good one. I met with some new faces and made several new friends. Links to my previous trips to Seoul as below :

Seoul Again
Tour 2 Seoul Part One
Tour 2 Seoul Part Two
Tour 2 Seoul Part Three
On Top of the Dragon Peak : Lost Love Found

Introducing Cheong Gye Cheon this time.

The second trip to Gyeongbuk Palace (the largest palace of the Joseon Dynasty) was nice. The snow setting made it extra memorable. It was cold weather despite early March.
Gyeongbuk Palace was said to be the most beautiful among the five other palaces.
I was trying to relate to the first female royal physician of the Joseon Dynasty - Dae Jang Geum. Was it the same palace ? I was told by my friend, that smaller doors were for women to their own palace courtyard. True ?
A big padlock for one of the palace connecting doors.
Decorations and colors used in Korean traditional architecture.
Hyangwonjeong (The Pavilion of Far Reaching Fragrance), an island built in the midst of a lotus pond.
Trees showing off their first budding spring flowers in late winter.
Cheonggye Stream, also known as Cheong Gye Cheon is a 5.8km creek flowing through downtown Seoul and then meeting the Han River.
During the presidency of Lee Seung-man , Cheong Gye Cheon was covered over with concrete for roads and in 1968, an elevated highway was built over it.
In July 2003, Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak initiated a project to uncover and restore the stream. It was a major undertaking as not only did the highway have to be removed, but years of neglect and development had left the stream nearly totally dry and 120,000 tons of water had to be pumped in daily. Apparently it was a successful project.
Night view of the city and Seoul Tower from where I have stayed - Hyundai Residence.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dubai - The Future for the Rich

One of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf, Dubai is increasingly developing as a hub for the service industries.
Some of the high towers in the city.
The Big Bus Tour of Dubai provides a good deal for city tour.
The Burj Dubai is a supertall skyscraper currently under construction. Its final height is officially being kept a secret due to competition; however, figures released by a contractor on the project have suggested a height of around 808 metres. Based on this height, the total number of habitable floors is expected to be around 162. If all goes according to plan, Burj Dubai will soon become the tallest building in the world.
Bur Juman is a high-end shopping mall located quite near to the place we stayed, Al Karama.
The Mall of the Emirates is the largest shopping mall in the Middle East. Its biggest claim to fame is the Middle East's first indoor ski slope, Ski Dubai.
Historically, Arabs living in the Jumeirah area were fishermen, pearl divers and traders. Jumeirah is generally agreed to be one of the most exclusive parts of Dubai and this has led to the use of the Jumeirah name as a brand which signifies exclusivity (e.g. the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Jumeirah Beach Club).
Jumeirah has a famous mosque.
The Burj al-Arab (Tower of the Arabs) was briefly marketed as "the world's first seven-star hotel". It stands on an artificial island 280 metres out from Jumeirah beach.
Dubai is a city of fascinating contrasts, offering a distinctive blend of old and new. It’s where East meets West. In less than a century, under the visionary leadership of Dubai’s ruling Al Maktoum family, it has been transformed from a small fishing village into a modern vibrant city full of surprises. Dubai is likely the fastest growing city in the world.
The Palm Jumeirah (in the shape of palm tree) is the world's largest man-made island and is touted as soon to be one of the world’s premier resorts.
Dubai, the ultra modern city in the middle of the desert. Unbelievable transformation.