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Picharavam Mangroves and a Labrador.
Pichavaram is a tiny little village known for the mangroves there. Mangroves are the coastal trees, that grow in saline water. Due to the salinity in the water they develop special type of roots that breath. These roots grow upwards - ie, towards the sky against the gravity. India has several places where you can see Mangroves. Subdarbans being biggest and most famous. Picharavam is also one of those places, located just below Pondicherry, on the east coast of India. Once you go there, if you are unlucky, you will meet the absolutely unintelligent parking attendant they have. Then you can take 15 minutes to park and another 20 minutes to get the car out when you are leaving - in an empty parking lot!!
There is a well-established boating centre. They have 2 types of boats. Motor boats and Manual Rowing boats. Motor boat [ naturally] takes you farther away in the river, But I thought it will make too much sound and they might even blast music and people might simply dance [ As my previous experience with Karnataka!] , I took the rowing boat. And certainly, it was a very good decision.
Once you buy the ticket, they will give you a life jacket, which, in many instances, somehow is already wet! So you look for a dry one. Then you look for the one which has the clips working, because in many jackets the clips are broken ! Although I imagine it won't in really matter - especially if you know how to swim and if you have taken a rowing boat; because the water there is hardly waist deep.
The duration of the trip is supposed to be 1 hour. This must be quite a popular place, as there were many, many boats, continuously filling up with groups of tourists. I am sure in the era of BC [ Before Corona] there would be a longer queue considering I had gone there on a week day! As the luck goes, somehow, I was the only person in my boat. I was pleasantly happy. But also, As the luck goes, my boatsman couldn’t speak a word of anything but Tamil. So, as the luck goes, there was not much conversation and the entire travel was nicely peaceful. As soon as I started, I regretted not carrying my flutes with me.
Getting inside a big and wide river in a row boat is always a special experience. As soon as you go away even by about 50 feet, the entire surrounding sound drops, and further you go the only sound you hear is the sound of peddles hitting the water! Swoosh Swoosh….It is a very different type of silence.
Within 10-15 minutes the guy rowed me inside the mangrove jungle and then simply parked the boat somewhere. There were some other boats already parked there. Under the shade of larger mangroves, It was quite peaceful there. People in groups were having fun between themselves. Most groups were entertaining themselves by taking selfies and pictures and singing some songs, which I could hear feebly as they were quite away from our boat.
Most interesting boat for me, was the one with a family that had their lovely Labrador with them in the boat. They all looked so happy - the dog looked confused though. Nevertheless they were enjoying a lot. They even posed for me when they saw me clicking their pictures. Once I was back, I waited for that family with the idea I will offer them the pics, but then I got very hungry and remembered I had to deal with that absolutely dumb parking attendant, So I left. But that visual of the family and the dog in the boat is going to remain in my memory for a while for sure!! Summerising, I can say, there is nothing spectacular there to say, but in general it’s a nice experience. I wouldn't have felt bad had I missed it.
1] Carry some drinking water as it may get hot in the high sun time.
2] Spend some time in looking a jacket that fits you, isn't wet, and the one with functional clips.
Puncture and a performance
These days everyone has a bucket list. Mostly where they want to travel to and such. While travelling to Udupi I too made one. First on the list was to eat Udupi food in the town of Udupi. Second was to get a puncture repaired in Kerala by a Keralite !! Bad thing to wish, but there is a charm in it!
As it had to go, I got a puncture somewhere on the road and that too in Kerala !! In my life I have had may be 4 or 5 punctures. Out of which, I have changed the tyre only once before. Centuries ago I had got my first puncture - this one I had repaired. It was when I had travelled to Nagpur from Pune on my bicycle, alone. I just had given my 10th grade exam. [Someone told me that the summer in Nagour is extreme hot, so I went there to see how bad it is!] Then once I was travelling with a friend and the car got a puncture, so I had helped him change the tyre. So now, this was the second time I was going to change the tyre!
Now as I got the puncture, I got my car to a side and got the stepney out and raised the car on the jack. Nearby there was a small hut that was selling the Indian National Snacks - tea and cream rolls. A couple of guys were sitting on a bench there. One of the guys walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I told him, let me try, if I can't manage, I will come to you. He smiled and walked away to chat with his friend.
Now was the time to unscrew the punctured tyre, and I got confused whether I should turn it clockwise or anticlockwise. I checked on YouTube, it was anticlockwise. I tried. The screw didn't move a fraction of a radian! I decided to ask this guy, I took a couple of steps towards him and as he looked at me with raised eyebrows, I simply moved my hands clockwise and anticlockwise, he had a big smile on his face and he indicated that it should be anticlockwise. I returned and tried again. The screw wouldn’t budge.
He saw that and walked up to me and as I moved away, he simply unscrewed it in about 2 seconds !! He then changed the tyre in next 30-40 seconds. I am sure I would have taken an hour to do that!! As he finished he told me that I will have to buy a new tyre as this one is not repairable, and walked away to his friend to continue their chat. I kept the punctured tyre in the dicky, locked the car and walked up to him.
" Thank you very much sir, You helped me a lot." I said with folded hands Namaskar.
" No problem." He said with a very sweet smile.
" Bhaisaab, you helped me, Now please tell me what can I do for you."
"No, nothing, there is no need."
" Oh nono, please tell me something that I can do for you "
"Treat me for a chai - tea" He said waving his hand towards the tea stall.
I got him a tea and we started talking. He was a truck driver and had come there for some family wedding, and had stepped out for a tea and chat.
I was thinking. I really wanted to return his favour. I was not happy with treating him just a Chai. He clearly was not a guy who wanted money. And I felt offering him money would be actually insulting to him.
You see, we performers are good in one thing. We understand if the audience is getting into our performance or not! Many a times it can happen, you are performing at your best, yet the audience is not moving. Something is not clicking. Then you have to use your special tricks to get the audience grooving on your music. I got exactly that feel here with him.
So I told him, come with me to the car. I play flute and I want to play something for you. He and his friends came with me. I picked up one of my smaller flutes and played the famous Hero tune for him. He hot a wider smile on his face. Both of them were quite curious about this guy who was playing the Hero tune for them roadside!
But still I was not happy. It hadn't clicked. I had to do something more to make him really happy. And then suddenly it came to my mind.
"Sir, I want a selfie with you. Will it be ok for you?"
And it clicked….!! He was damn thrilled that I was asking for a selfie with him! He had the most innocent smile on his face. He looked at his friend with a pride and we posed for a selfie. He was happy, I was happy. I thanked him once again and drove off.
The world is a stage for me, Every moment is a performance. All I want to do is to create good music and good memories for my audience. I hope the God and audience will keep me blessing forever.
I got to know about Mullayana Giri from a friend, only a day before I went there. He was going to Murudeshwar from Mullayan Giri and I was going uphill from Udupi. He told me the peak and mountain was completely under clouds and fog and that he couldn’t see much. I made plans to visit there, I took my chances and well, the weather had completely changed overnight and it was completely clean sky day for me! I wouldn't have minded the foggy road too, But honestly when I actually drove on those roads, I was happy there was no mist, fog, clouds and it's 23 other versions! The drive was literally enthralling for me. Mullayana Giri is the tallest peak in Karnataka, standing tall with about 1900 mt height from sea level. Giri means mountain. How it got the name Mullayana is unknown or disputed. This peak in reality is a twin peak, with Seethalayyana giri peak next to it. it is near the town of Chikmaglur.
The real thing I loved with Mullayana Giri was essentially the drive through coffee estates. It's simply magical. Put some lovely music in the car and breeze through on the curves of the mountains, while there is minimal traffic! At some point the road bifurcates and one goes to the other peak, one goes to Mullayana Giri. Go ahead and there is a big chowk. From that point busses can't go ahead. And there is a lot of drive or climb from that point. The road to the peak can be scary if you are driving new. But while climbing down the road doesn't look so tough!! It is not tough at all actually!
I stayed at the peak for a short while and returned. On the way back stopped and several places as the views are mesmerising, and I am totally a mountain person!
Udupi - Heaven for Udupi food!
Udupi is a west coastal town in South India; famous now for the Udupi Restaurants all across. I think Pune lives on those! Udupi restaurants are a class of restaurants that offer vegetarian south Indian snacks.
While driving to Udupi, I suddenly realised that I too can have a bucket list.!!! Everyone has one these days!! First on the list was to eat some Udupi food in the town of Udupi! Which, obviously I eagerly did! The guy who served me was happy to know that I am from Pune, and told me with a very happy smile that he had worked in Pune for 5 years, and has many friends working still in Pune restaurants. It turned out that I knew 2 of his friends! After all I have spent half my life in Vaishali and Roopali the two highly popular Udupi style sister restaurants in Pune.
Udupi is also famous for a very old, and absolutely cherishing temple of Lord Shri Krishna . The temple is completely wooden from inside, and is very serene. Naturally, there are some ancient stories about that temple and the Lord. I felt sad I didn't carry my flute inside the temple. Little away from the temple is the Malpe beach. Off the shore, there is an interesting island - St. Mary's Island. There is literally nothing there on the island! Few huts which might be serving as restaurants or such, were empty now, mostly due to Covid. There is a ferry that takes you to the island and brings you back after 1 hour. The ferry requires minimum 30 people to start. So I waited for almost an hour till the head count of 30 was gathered. I wished Ravan of Shri Lanka also wanting to go to the island, could have been an advantage. I could have asked him about a couple of Raags too! [ He was a great Veena Player]
Once I was on the boat, the first thing I noticed was a pair of big speakers. And once the ferry started, obviously the dreadful thing happened and they started playing some Kannad song, that was clearly a copy of Naveen Popat Haa - an old Marathi song !! It was probably some Kannada Film Song. As soon as the song started, a group of college girls got up and started dancing. Everyone started shooting their dance, they didn't care. As the ferry went a bit ahead I noticed two things. Another smaller boat started following us. They must be pirates I thought. I was quite suspicious about the entire thing! Second thing that happened was that another boat that was returning from the island, crossed us. I saw, on that boat 25 of 30 people were dancing !!! All in all Kannada people love dancing. A few days later I was in the mountains and had stopped at a shade. Suddenly an autorixa pulled up in front. 3-4 guys got out, danced for a few minutes and left!!! I think I have a video of that somewhere! The ferry takes about 15- 20 minutes. When our boat slowed down, the smaller boat that was following us came side by side and we all were asked to embark into that boat. That smaller boat took us to the island. We returned in the same sequence.
As I mentioned before, there isn't much on the island to say. What it is famous for, is the natural geography. Particular rock formations all around the island. The entire island certainly is a photogenic location. They had given us an hour to return. It was sufficient. We returned on a boat with more dancing people! It was quite entertaining really!
1] When you will want to go to the island - look for 'The Sea Walk'. That’s where the ferry goes off.
2] Definitely carry drinking water on the island. And possibly eat something too If it is in your food timings.
McLeod Ganj Market
One of the two parallel roads of the market Years ago when HHH Dalai Lama settled in McLeod Ganj,, tourists from all over the world started to pour in McleodGunj. This triggered many unusual things in this small, quiet, laid back Himalayan town - started happening there. Hundreds of small, big hotels, hundreds or restaurants, dozens of Yoga and Music classes and so on came up. Also bloomed was a big market. Now there are literally hundreds of road side shops, that appear in the morning and disappear completely by night. The sellers just sit on a cot or some kind of temporary elevated platform they have built at the road side.
Some utmost interesting things could be found there for sale. The focus, obviously is mainly on traditional looking or ethnic looking things and artefacts. Although lots of brass things made in Kanpur or Lucknow [in India] are sold in the market, they are quite popular amongst the buyers - especially foreigners. One entire road side is full of jewellery. Mainly beautiful colourful necklaces made up of stones and beads has been in fashion for several years now. Now a days you get the same in other cities of India, but the quality of the jewellery here is considered to be better.
Most Tibetans who run small stalls of food or jewellery or memorabilia, shift their stalls to Chandigarh or some other towns in the winters; as not many tourists visit McleodGunj that time. Later, in March or so, these sellers return back to McleodGunj as the touristy season starts that time.
Lots of these sellers create / manufacture their own stuff to sell. Most of the woollen things, especially hand-gloves, caps, scarves, sweaters etc are woven by the ladies who are selling those items. So, when you buy those, you definitely are helping them. There are one or two Thangka Painters too. Thangka painting is the traditional painting art from Tibet.
Whenever I visit McLeod Ganj, I keep wondering on the streets when I have nothing else to do. Once I went on clicking pictures of various lovely colourful patterns being created by the arrangements of goods on the stalls. Some of the arrangements were quite artistically done. While I bought some things, I chatted up with the sellers. Most were quite enthusiastic for talking. They had their own stories to tell. Common factor being, how they came to India several years ago when they were a teenager, and how India has supported them. Generally they were quite grateful towards India, but not necessarily every Indian they come across.
One day I witnessed an unpleasant incidence. While I was looking for some incense sticks, one nearby vendor suddenly burst out shouting at some Indian buyer. This vendor was a bit elderly. Apparently, the Indian guy had insulted him in some way. The Indian guy must have crossed the line, as he quickly disappeared from the scene. I approached the Tibetan vendor. He had a small tear in his eye. He kept talking to himself about although he is a refugee, he too is human and a person with self-respect. The street went back to the normal and onlookers lost the interest in the case. I kept chatting with him for a while and soon he calmed down. I decided to buy some things from him and he offered some good discount to me which I politely refused it telling him that It was good for me that he offered me a discount, but that more than the discount I was happy as he talked to me..
In the course of time I have bought lots of necklaces and many earrings etc, and tested all my bargaining skills on the younger sellers somewhat successfully. If you ever go to McleodGunj, keep some time in the schedule for shopping :)
Tibetans in India
Tibetans purchacing Tibetan bread in Main Square of McLeog Ganj Now by 2020, it has been more than half a century, the Tibetans have been living in India and in many countries for that matter - mostly as refugees. In 1959 Dalai Lama escaped from the Chinese invasion and came to India via Sikkim. With him and following him, many Tibetans took refuge in India. Many other countries like Switzerland and Germany too, accepted many refugees from Tibet.
Initially The Dalai Lama was given some land in Delhi for residence, but He didn’t like the big city and requested for more mountain place which resembles his home in Lhasa. Indian government was happy to allocate him the land in Upper Dharamshala or McLeodgunj in Himachal Pradesh. Many Tibetans went to different places in India. Today there are as many as 38-40 official settlements of Tibetans in India. Near Mysore in Karnataka is one very big settlement which hosts around 70,000 Tibetans.
Usually Tibetans make a very friendly and peaceful community. They are known as good neighbours and mostly live peacefully and contribute a lot to the society they are living in. I know several musicians who are living in Europe doing some very good job or running some businesses besides their performances of Tibetan Traditional music and dance around the world.
It is estimated that McLeodgunj hosts about 6,000 Tibetans. Some are in TIPA [ Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts] , some are working in Tibetan government offices, some run their own businesses - small or big, and some are doing social work for other Tibetans. All the newcomers sooner or later get absorbed in the society and work hard to make their life. Although, generally the Tibetan community is peaceful, there are lots of hidden issues and attitudes under the surface. Indians in McLeodgunj are getting business Only because the Tibetans are there; And Tibetans are getting everything, as India has politically supported them. But they also know the Indians are getting business because of the presence of Tibetans as well as The Dalai Lama.
Although the Tibetans are refugees, some of the Tibetans have become rich by now. Either they have excellent business sense and have made some very good monies, Or have married some Indian person and are doing some very good business. And then it could be considered natural that jealousy can emerge out in some other minds; especially that of local Indians who don’t have such business sense. Typically the Tibetans who marry other nationals, tend to retain their Refugee passport [ documents and status]. Either because a refugee passport is the most powerful document or for their national pride - or perhaps both.
Decades ago there was one major incidence in which a big fight erupted between Indians and Tibetans. Lots of Tibetans were beaten as they sheerly were outnumbered by the Indians joining in from neighbouring villages. Media in India wasn't so strong then so it went unnoticed for the rest of the country. Naturally there was government mediation and since then both the parties have been living comparatively peacefully.
But recently no such incidence has happened and the life generally is peaceful. India has been traditionally patient with refugees. Illegal entrants from Bangaladesh, and the refugees from Shri Lanka and Tibet are the main refugee communities and I imagine Tibetans are the some of the best contributors to the Indian society. Glimpses of Tibetan people in McLeod Ganj, and nearby.
Meeting a Buddhist Master
Monk playing a traditional drum in a Buddhist Monastery in South Korea I did travel to Korea numerous times. My first visit was in 2002, and since then I have travelled tremendously inside Korea and have performed over 600 concerts there. These were all sorts of concerts. With some rock band, with jazz Bands, with philharmonic Orchestras, at Yoga Studios, in big theatres, in cafes and clubs and in churches, and also, many in different Buddhist Monasteries. Korean Buddhist Monasteries are some of the most serene and peaceful places I have ever visited. The monks are quite fond of my music. Some of them can speak fluent English too! The typical day in a monastery begins at 4 am with the meditation, and goes on till 9 pm. On special days you have concerts and such. And then there are some special sessions of people with the Head Monks or senior monks. I was lucky to get one such session one day with the senior most monk of a very big monastery. It was serene. I went in and sat doing nothing. After a while finally The Head Monk walked in and asked me What are you Doing? I said Nothing, Master The monk simply left and returned after 4 hours, and asked me again What are you doing? Nothing, Master. I am not finished yet O' Master. Apparently I did pass the test, and our session started. After a while of teachings the Master said, Do you understand that you don’t really exist? Upon which I very politely replied To whom are you telling that Master? He seemed highly pleased with that reply. The teachings went on for a while and then the Master ordered me Do the opposite of what I tell you. So I didn’t. With this not doing successfully, He seemed quite happy !!! Then he said I have never met someone so thoughtless in my life. I bowed down and humbly said Thank you Master He blessed me and said Keep up the good practice. There ended our session. I feel I am a blessed soul…
Not exactly pie, but well it's food somewhat similar may be Dharamkot, where I am staying in Himalayas, is a small quaint village. Extremely clean and peaceful. It's spread out on the curve of the mountains that make the valley. Large amount of foreigners come and reside here for couple of months or more. Thus, entire village seems to be busy in popularising Indian art-forms. Everywhere there are many yoga studios, some music classes, some astrologers and all that. Cafes here are really special. One gets splendid quality food from different parts of the world here. Just yesterday a new pie shop opened here! And It’s open 22/7 🥧
Book store and a café
Cafe with a library in McLeod Ganj While walking on the streets of McLeod Ganj, just little before the Dalai Lama Temple there is a cozy library. In today's world finding book shop or a library itself is a very warm thing! They also have a small café there. Tibetan bread and my favourite hot chocolate is a favoured menu for me. I have spent hours and hours in that book cafe. Initially drinking coffee, and once I stopped coffee, then Hot Chocolate. I just love the combination of the smells of books and coffee. For days and days I would go there daily and spend time in writing and reading for a couple of hours. One day when I was just walking back to my seat from the counter, a book on the bookshelf caught my eye. It said loudly on the side cover - How to get rid of 50% of your problems. I have bought two copies. I am sure all 100% problems of mine will be gone forever now!! ☺☺
NGOs in McLeod Ganj
A Street Play for awareness McLeodgunj is full of dozens of NGOs. Non-Governmental Organisations that is. They are various charitable organisations. Like anywhere else, some are doing real good work, some seem to be using it for some other benefits. Most of these NGOs make an appeal to the visitors to volunteer the work and many visitors, especially foreigners do it willingly. This voluntary work can be anything from teaching English to translating their website in different languages, to going into villages and working there with the people or teaching Tibetan kids some skill set.
'Lha' is one such good organisation which seems to be doing some real good work for the society. Lha is involved into several activities. Mainly focusing on the educational activities, Lha also is into Clear Vision Project where they provide spectacles to needy. Lha is into some other teaching projects too. Lha has an office right on the main road of McLedgunj, towards the temple side.
Volunteers can sign up for a duration from a week to several months, but Lha prefers more than a month's volu nteering. Easiest for a short time visitor is to participate in their English Speaking classes. I found the concept really amazing! All the people who want to learn English speaking gather together in different classrooms. Whoever wants to volunteer comes in and smaller groups of 5-6 students and a teacher are made on the spot. For the next 45 minutes everyone speaks only in English ! It is such a simple but effective concept. Although learning English from French or Spanish person might not prove to the best, it still is a great way to learn to speak English. That way the students get exposed to different accents too ! English Speaking class in session In my personal experience, Lha people tend to be little disrespectful towards anyone who is on a short visit. That means usually Indians. And start talking as if they are wasting their time by talking to you. But I am sure they are very nice with foreigners who stay for longer duration. But then where in India I haven't seen racism against Indians!!
Usually I would go there around 3 pm and talk to the Tibetan chaps in English. I got to know so many things about their lives, their ideas and such through this. My schooling was done in a typical Marathi School and I couldn’t speak English at all till I got into Fergusson. I have seen thousands of well-educated and very intelligent Koreans suffering from this syndrome too. So I know the importance of this. And also I know how to overcome it. I loved the idea of Lha to make a group of students and find someone to talk to them in English for an hour daily!
In any case, I don’t know if they learnt any English from my efforts, but I learnt two Tibetan words Julley and Tashi Delek ! A Candle March Some of these NGOs organise awareness events from time to time. Like candle march or a street play, or distribution of pamphlets telling Chinese torture and such. [I saw such in Seoul at some tourist spots btw] You can get lots of information online about these NGOs in McLeodgunj if you wish to volunteer. You shall be most welcomed there! Although typically they are looking for long term volunteers like 2 or more months.
Theatre Street at Hyehwa
Biggest in the area, Arko Theatre As I started performing more and more in Korea, I started realising the depth and popularity of Arts and Culture in the Korean society. Although on surface one would see a totally westernised society, but deep inside the people are really bound to their roots. Korean culture is quite old and after the modernisation, since say the 70s or so, attire and some behaviour drastically changed, but lots of old traditional elements still carry on strong in day to day life.
I would say that the Koreans are culturally very rich. Typically by the time they become 30 or so, they have heard, seen, experienced and participated in unimaginable amount of concerts, performances, exhibitions, talks, discussions and so on, as there is humongous cultural activity going on all around them.
I once made a rough calculation of how many events must be happening in Seoul every month. I think there would be about 5000 performances going on in a month. And this is just Seoul ! There are several smaller cities where the figures will be slightly smaller.
There are over 200-250 cafes where you can catch a live performance. Then there are hundreds of small theatres with capacity of about 80-300 in each. These are spread over Seoul. Besides these, there are big theatre complexes of capacity ranging from 700-800 to 1500 in each district of Seoul.
And finally there are the prestigious Seoul Art Centre [There are 5 theatres there], LG Centre, Samsung Theatre etc. And then there are over 300 motels which have live entertainment every day.
So this means 1] There are enough number of performers or all sorts to occupy the stages 2] There is enough audience to support all these!
One of the most interesting areas in Seoul, usually never mentioned in any of the tourist attractions lists, is the area around Hyehwa Metro station. Just come out from the exit number 2 of this station and you shall see several young and some old ladies waiting for you with bundles of leaflets in their hands. These are promotional materials of the concerts, dramas, performances happening in nearby theatres. An open air performance - free to all. There are about 180 theatres in the vicinity of Hyehwa !!! Read again - 180 Theatres in walking distance !!! Unbelievable !!!
As you walk on the left of the exit, you come across a huge area where there is an open air theatre, which artists can book and perform. People just gather and sit listening to you. If you don’t want to book the pavilion, then you can simply pick up your guitar and start singing on the other side of the plaza, people will gather around you and keep listening! While walking around you will always see some guys singing, some street plays going on, someone doing sketches of others and someone reading her poetry. They all have spectators gathered around them all the time!!
On one side there is the big brick building of the Arko Theatre, a big theatre of capacity of about 800. It is famous for the dance performances. Huge wooden stage and state of the art sound and light systems are permanently installed there.
Then you pass that and walk ahead and you shall find several small lanes. And in each of the lanes there are dozens and dozens of theatres. The audience capacity of these theatres is from 60-80 to 300; but most can host about 150 audience. In every tall building there would be 5-6 theatres, 2-3 cafes and so on. In the evening you will always find a large crowd walking around to figure out which performance they should attend. Mostly they are young guys and girls. This entire area once was a University. Once the University shifted somewhere on a larger area, all these theatres and cafes came up.
Usually all these theatres are all booked and busy. I remember in around 2004 I performed in one of the theatres with famous Korean pianist Roh Young Sim. The owner of the theater had come to see it and met me later. She said " I would love to see you performing your own concert here in my theatre some time." I told her "That would be great! I am going to be here in Korea for 2 months now. So we can surely do it" She said "Oh Sorry, My theatre is booked for next 3 months" !!! I performed there in my next visit then.
Point is that the theatres are busy a lot ! Now this is extremely important. The theatres are busy also means that 1] There are enough musicians, performers and artists to keep the stages busy and 2] There is tremendous audience support for all that! Without viewers nothing of all this is possible!
Over the period of years I have performed in many of these theatres in this Hyehwa station area. I have performed in the biggest Arko theatre at least 10-12 times. And every time I go there I feel I am in heaven!
Seoul is surely a paradise for art and music !
Seoul - A City of Culture
The magnificent city of Seoul ! And how I love it! I went there first in 2002 and since then I have visited it 11 times. And it has not stopped me enchanting me every time I go there! The world's best public transport can be found here.
Seoul is a large city. Large could be an understatement ! It's one of the Mega Cities in the world. About 2 Crore = 20 million people live there. That’s about 2/3rd of the entire population of Canada ! And now this absolutely safe city of Seoul, is slowly opening up to the foreigners and accepting them with some curiosity towards them.
Seoul has 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Mt. Bukhan, the world's most visited national park, Lotte World, the world's largest indoor theme park, Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, the world's longest bridge fountain and Times Square's CGV Starium, the world's largest cinema screen. There were 9 Metro lines in 2007; Now there are 13 ! I think, about 45,000 busses run all the day transporting most of its 250,000,00 people and yet in most lines you find a seat to sit in Metro even in peak hours! Electronics in Korea is a topic in itself. Korea is ahead of the world perhaps by 25 years in Electronics ! Just the day I left, SK Telecom announced 180 MBps speeds for mobiles and they already have 1GBps since some time. It's actually faster than accessing your own hard disk on your computer! What astonished me was the comfort of the senior generation of Koreans in using these technologies. I saw so many 80 years + old people using internet and some really complicated looking menus on home appliances. Koreans and I am told Japanese too, can handle some serious levels of complexities. Even their games are so complicated… almost as complicated as Cricket compared with football!
Lots to see and feel around in Seoul ! This time in my schedule I had a full week kind of free. In all my previous 10 visits to Korea, I could not really get lot time to go around sightseeing. My schedules used to be really busy. I have performed 17 concerts in 15 days or 43 concerts in 30 days or so many times.
But this time there was a gap due to some intense and again, complicated structure of a performance. This performance we were going to rehearse for a week and present 3 days. So for a week I had only rehearsals in the evening. I didn't need to get ready and carry my performance clothes, and I could get tired [ by sightseeing] as much as, as I wasn’t performing in the evenings!
There are some famous markets in Seoul. Namdemun and Dongdemun markets. Both the markets are quite big and occupy perhaps 5-6 blocks and dozens of buildings. Dongdemun market is more for clothes and 1 billion designs of buttons and all such accessories! Whereas Namdemun market is more into selling touristy stuff. Various kinds of souvenirs and lots of bags, purses and some clothes and all that. The market has several buildings each specializing only one or two types of things. Several stories full of hundreds of small small shops is a sight to see. Although naturally one would find nearly 50 different shops selling exactly same collections at the same price.
A common misconception about Korea is that you don’t / cant bargain generally. You can actually. Just ask for a calculator and key in the price you are ready to pay. No one will talk English, so this works ! Not much, but you can get some 10-20 % lesser price at times. But Some sellers won't reduce the price even by 1 won.