Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: July 2013

Useful Advice for Real Estate Agents

Dear Real Estate Agent:

If you are going to show me an apartment, please take a minute to make sure it has not been rented already. Especially if it is a really nice, affordable apartment that is going to make my wife all happy.

Sincerely,

– Mark

* * *

On a related note — wow, have rental prices ever climbed in Korea since I last lived here. If you wonder why the Korean real estate market seems so crazy, these two recent stories from the Korea JoongAng Daily may help clear things up:

Deposits, monthly rental prices soaring

Gov’t trims apartment supply to spur real estate market

Yes, these two articles appeared on the same day. Story A: The government should do something about rising housing prices. Story B: The government cuts supply to raise housing prices. I’m guessing that one policy or the other could work, but not both.

 

A few lines under deadline

Sorry for the lack of updates recently, but I’ve been rather under the gun of a rather large deadline. A deadline that I already missed rather egregiously. =_=

However, in between the writing and other tasks, I needed to make another exciting visa run to Fukuoka. Now, I’ve been making visa runs to Fukuoka since 1998, so I know the routine fairly well at this point (although this was my first since around 2005 or so). I quite like the city and always appreciate a chance to visit. This last trip, it was sunny and 34 degrees or so, while Seoul was getting soaked in a miserable, sticky rainstorm.

Fukuoka’s Naka River on a hot, hot day:

Plus, during my trip it was the lead up to the Yamakasa summer festival, so the city was full of those one-ton floats like this one:

Groups of men would load those floats onto their shoulders and run them around Fukuoka’s downtown, while people threw water on them. Very good fun (although incredibly hot, tiring work on a day like that).

Some old Japanese building porn (for Robert Koehler):

Fukuoka has some great ramen, too. Here’s a big building dedicated to ramen.

Inside, you are served in this tiny little stalls:

And here’s the ramen:

Meanwhile, when I got back to Seoul (last Friday), Seoul Station was full of budding photographers, all taking pictures of the sky. I’m sure my phone’s camera does not compare, but…:

Oh, some big news coming to the blog very soon (book news!), followed by some big changes to the blog itself.

 

Sometimes the Cheonggyecheon Really Is a River

This is my favorite time of year in Korea — I love it when the hot, summer rains pelt down — so after dinner this evening I took a little walk through the drenched streets of downtown Seoul. And, well, this is what I found:

Pretty cool, huh? The Cheonggyecheon was pretty swollen. Usually, the stream looks more like this:

This was the start of the Cheonggyecheon this evening, when the rains were really coming down:

As opposed to this:

Anyhow, one of my favorite parts of Seoul is just walking around, seeing what I might find on a random street on a random day. Like yesterday, I was walking near the Seoul History Museum, when I suddenly realized that I had never checked out Gyeonghuigung Palace before, and I really should. So I did:

Heunghwamun Gate was originally further east, then moved by the Japanese during the colonial era, and finally moved here in the 1980s.

Gyeonghuigung was apparently destroyed by the Japanese during the colonial era, so this is almost all a reconstruction … But it was quite a nice reconstruction.

The main entrance to the palace is under construction until August, so that was a bit of a bummer.

Unlike the other palaces in Seoul, this one was dead quiet. No tourists anywhere and just a few folks walking around.

Here’s a view of the palace from a hill behind it:

After checking out the palace, I stubbornly refused to retrace my steps and leave the same way I came in, so I started looking around for a back gate. But apparently there wasn’t one. Undeterred, I kept looking, eventually heading up into the forest hill behind the palace. There I found an old wall, with little steel doors in the side. It wasn’t locked, so I walked through and found myself on a little roadway.

I kept walking up until I got to the top of the hill, and what did I find? The old Seoul Weather Observatory, in operation since 1933, I do believe.

Around the observatory, there’s some rebuilt  sections of the old Seoul wall (looking very unhistoric, by the way) and quite a nice path snaking its way around the hill. It led to this park:

Which had a whole bunch of cats sleeping on the stones and in the undergrowth:

By now I was up pretty high, in an interesting taldongne area.

There’s even a walking tour and map through the alleys:

And a few forlorn hanok:

Eventually the road took me back down to Sajik Park. Here is a view of Inwangsan from the park:

Oh, right, I started this post talking about the Cheonggyecheon being swollen by the rain. So here are a couple more pics:

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