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25/05/2015: Travel Destinations - KC Abbott

Today I have the last post in the favourite travel destinations series - I hope you have enjoyed these as much as I have! A warm welcome to K C Abbott who has chosen a truly stunning place as a finale:-

Christina asked for exotic, so I thought I'd do oriental, in honour of her Jade Lioness. Most of us think of Japan or China when we think of oriental. Just to be different, I decided to show you Korea. There is much, much more to Korea than Hyundai cars and Samsung TVs.

It's a fascinating country, tacked on to the Chinese mainland and a short sea-crossing from Japan, with a proud history which goes back 2000 years. It has influences from both neighbours - and Japan ruled it from 1910 to 1945 - but Korean culture remains distinct. If you know Japan, you'll see the differences in what follows.

In the grounds of Kyongbok Palace in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, many of the women (but not the men!) wear traditional dress. It's quite usual to do so on holidays; more so than kimono-wearing in Japan, I think. In this picture, the few women in Western dress look slightly out of place to me.

Male traditional dress is rarely seen, but here's an example on stage, with court musicians playing two types of Korean zither. Visitors can also see amazing dancing and drumming displays, by female performers.

Koreans pride themselves on their exquisite Celadon ceramics which fetch enormous prices nowadays and are much sought after by collectors. There are also beautiful brush paintings, in a style similar to Chinese.

Equally astonishing, and unique to Korea, is the Tanchong style of decorating the external woodwork of buildings. The colours have to be seen to be believed. Yes, they ARE that bright.

Korean is a very difficult foreign language to learn. I was warned off by a colleague who was fluent in both Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Even he was finding Korean difficult, so I decided I would be wise not to try! Fortunately for me, many Koreans speak excellent English, partly as a result of the US military presence there.

Korean has its own phonetic alphabet of 26 letters, called Hangul, invented in the 15th century and much easier to learn than Chinese characters. This early example of printing shows the simple Korean letters interspersed with Chinese characters to explain what the new letters meant. You can easily see how complex the Chinese is, by comparison.

Lovers of oriental food will be used to wielding long bamboo chopsticks. Korean chopsticks are different. They're shorter, pointed, and made of metal, often silver. The theory is that, if you dip your silver chopsticks into poisoned food, they will turn black and you will know to avoid the danger. At least, that was the reasoning that my Korean friends explained to me.

This is part of a Korean banquet. The silver chopsticks are on the table, bottom right, alongside a silver spoon.

Korea is an amazing and very hospitable country. Definitely recommended, if you're going to the Far East!

Thank you so much, Casey! I visited Korea a very long time ago but I missed a lot of these wonderful sights so will definitely have to go back some time.

Casey's latest book is Viper Venom: short stories to chill the blood which is available now as a free download on Smashwords (or for 99p on Kindle here). For fans of Casey's dystopian thriller All Cats Are Grey, there's a short story prequel in Viper Venom.

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