My family took a two week trip to Korea in June of 2000. We visited several locations around the country including Seoul, the DMZ, Puson, and Kyong-Ju. This is a collection of the best photos from the trip.
This is a brief compilation of photos highlighting the Aurora series (1 thru 4) of solar cars built by the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project. A more detailed history can be found at the Project's website.
Despite a terrible wait to check in (1.5+ hours) we are now getting ready to board our flight to LAX. It is completely full, but hopefully I will have a seat that reclines without assistance from the crew. See everyone soon.
We ate our final dinner in Australia at a very nice restaurant in Brisbane called Circa. I had an excellent venison pie with a McLaren Shiraz followed by a rice pudding with gingerbread for dessert. The service was stellar and the food decadent - the host practically ran to hold the door open for us on our way out!
This entire trip Ryan's lactose intolerance has asserted itself, most recently in his inability to eat the complimentary creme brule at Circa. He has also established that Lactaid Plus pills don't really do much to help the situation. Dairy products can readily be made lactose free, but generally are not. Since he works in the food industry, thee has been much discussion of the market potential of a diversified selection of lactose free products. I initially disputed the orcelsnce of this dysfunction, but as it turns out those with lactose intolerance are in the majority and those with a tolerance would be more correctly described as having abnormal lactase persistence. Lactase is the enzyme in your digestive system that allows digestion of lactose. During normal mammilian weaning, the production of lactase is switched off genetically causing milk to make the offspring ill. Due to a genetic mutation hundreds of years ago, likely in Europe or the Middle East, many people fro!
m these regions produce lactase throughout their lives. Nearly all Asian, African, Australian, and American natives are "lactose intolerant." The lack of dairy in the cuisines of these regions is quite evident, so apparently there may be a market for lactose free dairy products after all!
We took a walk down to the South Bank of Brisbane today. The area is a riverfront arts area with performance venues, museums, an art fair and cafes. Near the maritime museum, we heard a boy in his mid-teens playing the violin beside the pedestrian thoroughfare. He seemed to be working his way through the intermediate level Suzuki repertoire. This brought back memories of my dad's ceaseless encouragement of my sister and I to play our violins for money on the street - probably an attempt to recoup some of the many thousands spent on lessons over the years. He may be the first father iin history to actually encourage his children to become street musicians. It clearly didn't work (or did it . . . clever reverse psychology) since he ended up with an engineer for a son anyway!
We visited the Queensland Museum for awhile, but it was aimed at a slightly younger crowd (please, no rapidly approaching middle age jokes - I can't even rent a car without a surcharge yet!). Ryan was feeling a bit ill, so we headed over to the South Bank 5 Cineplex and took in Batman Begins based on timing as much as anything. I was personally disappointed by the lack of subtitles as it is quite disconcerting when Batman says "G'day mate!" Fortunately Ryan had his Australian Phrasebook along, so we were able to muddle through. I am unhappy to report that the inability to turn cell phone ringers off is a problem down under, thanks to an inopportune rendition of a salsa-esque tune in the middle of the film.
We leave Hamilton island today, returning to Brisbane. We woke to beautiful sun and the start of the Powerade Outrigger Competition (don't worry, we hadn't heard of it either). The first good weather on the island and we had to leave. The emotions were mixed bravaiseqe are both feeling ready to wind down the vacation. I need to get home and wrap up my thesis work and get ready to move and Ryan has been travelling for work so much he feels like he has barely been home.
The plans for Brisbane are up in the air. We plan to do a little shopping and organize our thoughts before the long flight home.
Hamilton island sits on the barrier reef, the outermost part of the reef is a few kilometers to the west. We booked in for a full day snorkeling/diving trip to the outer reef, but, although I was eager to tackle the 2-3 meter seas in the passage, H2O Sportz and Ryan were not, so we settled for the half day trip to a reef on the north side of the island. Ryan went for a full dive and I snorkled. The reef was beautiful, much like the GBR stereotype. Fish of all sizes abounded as well as dozens of coral varieties. I was surprised at the number of soft corals, as I had the hard, bone-like, variety in mind. My favorite reef sightings were the enormous giant clams that resemble blue lips opening and closing. Although I was told by the guide that the 14-18 cm specimens we saw were "small" giant clams, they still register as substantial to me. No pictures were taken - it is unlikely they would have done the reef justice. The trip was worth it despite the rather cold weather and smal!
l amount of seawater in the nose.
Well, the food hasn't been great, but at least the weather has been overcast and cool . . . harrumph. We woke up in the morning feeling unmotivated to go sailing, as it was rather cold, so we slept in a little, grabbed beakfast around 10:30 and packed a lunch for a little hike. The predetermined plan, for future reference, was to go for a hike, then cool off in the pool later in the afternoon.
The hike took us up to several of the highest peaks on the island, which offered spectacular views and a strenuous climb. We decended toward a beach to have lunch, and halfway down the trail we encountered a sign warning "Access only at low tide". To our own credit, while the map clearly showed the path going through water, without any other notation about tides, we assumed it was a poorly drawn walk along the shore, rather than a swimming trip most of the day. Further complicating the trip, was the increasingly rough "trail" that terminated with the sign "Follow creekbed to beach". This creekbed was mostly passable, but after an hour of scrambling and 1 km traversed, Ryan announced, "This doesn't seem safe," as he reached what surely would have been a sizable waterfall had there been any water in the creek. Fortunately, we found an alternate path up the side. We also arrived at low tide lending the beach the look of a martian plain. We hiked around to the second beach, whic!
h included some actual sand. Lunch was a quite enjoyable new taste sensation: panini with brie, cranberry preserves, turkey, and greens.
When we got back from the hike, I was hot, sweaty and ready for a swim despite the 70 F weather. Ryan was having none of it, and, after hiking to the far pool that included a hot tub, he pronounced it too crowded and "sunned" himself under the clouds while I swam.
the Great Barrier Reef was on our "must do" list, so after weighing numerous options we made reservations to fly to the Hamilton Island Resort in the Whitsundays. We stuffed our backpacks into our duffle bags (luxurious tropical island resorts do not qualify as "backpacking") and hopped a Jetstar flight to the Hamilton Island, the most developed of the Whitsunday Islands. We were singled out from the luxury resort vacationers, when we tried to board the shuttle with our luggage and were told there wasn't room and we should leave our bags with the porters, who would gladly deliver them to our room - oops. Our initial faux pas corrected, we made our way to the Palm Terrace hotel. The accommodations were decidedly 3 star, but we were on a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef, who was going to complain? If only the sun would come out!
I immediately took advantage of the non-dormitory mattress for a nap, while Ryan took a run up to the Resort Outlook. I later learned that his was more of a vigorous walk, whereas my nap involved strenuous dreaming. Our exercises complete, we decided to explore the island's eating options. I won't dignify any of the restaurants with an individual review, but, suffice it to say, competition is a good thing, and all of the islands restaurants are run by the same resort company - they set the menus and the prices. Did I mention the only ways off the island are boat, plane, and speedo?
It is bad when your first impression of someone is that they have a foul odor, it is worse if you are paying $25+ per night to sleep in the same room, and worse still if there is a perfectly good shower, not 10 feet, down the hall. This was the experience we had with one of our roommates in Sydney. The nickname "Stinky", was assigned to sprinkle humor, but it did little to diffuse the smell. We ran into another stinker in Adelaide, though he was assigned "Sleeping Giant" due to his size and daytime sleep schedule.
Our latest, and hopefully last, experience came at the Tinbilly, where we entered our room to find a large glass bottle of cough expectorant on the floor. This not what you want to find near your bed in a foreign country, whilst on vacation. We immediately wondered aloud whether he knew that expectorant was different then suppressant; in fact, their purposes are completely opposite. Our fear was confirmed when "Cough Expectorant" wandered into the room around 2am took a couple of big hits off the bottle, then lay down in a coughing fit to go to sleep. We were then awakened several times during the night to the hacking of Expectorant, who rould hack in the bathroom for several minutes, then return, take a couple of hits from the bottle to "quell" the coughing. . . with predictable results.
Ryan proposed the theory that perhaps hostels serve as vagrant training programs, where young people get a taste of the bohemian lifestyle while they can still get a credit card in their name. Then, with financial means exhausted and the grip of the bohemian deepset, they retreat to the streets, a new generation of vagrants.
The Lone Pine sanctuary came gigly recommended, but with the rain we were hoping it would be a largely indoor activity. Our hopes were dashed when we boarded the bus and were told dryly, "Hope you have jackets, you're going to get wet."
Admission is not cheap, but you can get a lot closer to the wildlife here than at a zoo. Whether it is a good idea to allow people to pet kangaroos and koalas for $14 (YHA discount) is more debatable.
Koalas are super cute, it is undeniable. What no guidebook tells you, however, is that they are stinky little devils. This becomes immediately understood when you readily fork over an additional $15 to have your photo taken holding one. The aroma is pungent - a mix between eucalyptus and urine. They are also heavy, weighing between 7 and 10 kg.
Other interesting facts: - Koalas are marsupials (pouched mammals), not bears.
- Koalas rarely drink because the eucalypt leaves contain so much water.
- Koalas will eat only 50 of the 800+ varieties of eucalyptus tree found in Australia.
- The nutritional content of eucalyptus leaves is so low, that koalas must rest for at least 20 hours a day to conserve energy.
- Baby koalas must eat there mothers excrement to ingest gastrointestinal microbes before being able to digest eucalypt leaves.
We were also able to see and pet several kangaroos and watched a sheep herding demo. Sorry to any "Babe" fans, there were no sheep pigs, just dogs. Despite the expense and damp, we had a great time and I have some great pictures of koalas!