Diary 4.2016 – 5.2016

31 May 2016

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31 May 2016

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30 May 2016

Say it loud, say it proud, say it together. Who supports marriage equality in Northern Ireland!? Say ‘I do too!”

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30 May 2016

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29 May 2016

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29 May 2016

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28 May 2016

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27 May 2016

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26 May 2016

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25 May 2016

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24 May 2016

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23 May 2016

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23 May 2016

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22 May 2016

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21 May 2016

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21 May 2016

Saturday humour

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21 May 2016

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20 May 2016

Sergey Lazarev

Please find below some photos of Sergey Lazarev, a popular Russian singer and actor, and a handsome young man (33 yo). He won “bronze” at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, just a few days ago. He is a good person and a friend of gays.

He spoke a number of times in support of LGBT, and against the Russian gay propaganda law.

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20 May 2016

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19 May 2016

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19 May 2016

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18 May 2016

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17 May 2016

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16 May 2016

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15 May 2016

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14 May 2016

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13 May 2016

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12 May 2016

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11 May 2016

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11 May 2016

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11 May 2016

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10 May 2016

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9 May 2016

VICTORY DAY

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9 May 2016

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8 May 2016

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8 May 2016

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7 May 2016

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6 May 2016

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6 May 2016

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5 May 2016

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5 May 2016

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4 May 2016

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4 May 2016

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3 May 2016

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3 May 2016

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2 May 2016

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2 May 2016

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1 May 2016

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30 April 2016

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29 April 2016

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29 April 2016

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28 April 2016

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27 April 2016

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26 April 2016

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25 April 2016

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25 April 2016

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24 April 2016

Two families

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23 April 2016

Incheon, my final day in Korea

After Moscow, my flight was via Korea again. Via Seoul. Well, not exactly. You see, the Seoul airport proper is small and is used for “minor purposes”. The main airport (that, as I was told, was recognised as the best in the world) is located in a different city, Incheon, a relatively short distance away.

It is indeed a comfortable and huge airport. Incheon is a good match too, being the third largest city in South Korea, with a population of 2 million people. It is about an hour’s drive away from Seoul. Incheon is a maritime city, and its visitors often explore its islands. I had 9 hours of transit time. I arrived from Moscow in the morning, and my Sydney flight was in the evening. My first intention was to visit the islands. However, after some thinking, I decided that it would be a hassle to find my way to them, and as for exploring the city on foot, it would also be a complicated task: I did not know where to go and how to get around. Most Koreans are not fluent speakers of English, far from it, it would also be a problem if I started to ask questions. Moreover, I would have to go through customs and passport control: to check out for a few transit hours and then, after standing in long lines, to come back. So I came to terms with the inevitability of killing 9 hours in the best airport in the world.

But… A surprise was awaiting me! When, tired and solemn, I was heading towards the transit zone, a notice caught my eye. It was about some transit tours. As it turned out, Koreans look after pour bastards like myself (a far cry from Mumbai in India, where together with other Australians I was killing 11 hours in a dirty and small airport hall a few years back – over there we were really killing time, without any compassion on the part of the Indians).

Incheon Airport offers a range of tours of one, two, or even five hours – if somebody wants to go to Seoul. A helpful employee suggested two tours for me: of one and two hour duration. I was happy to accept. I was surprised to learn that all the transit tours were free of charge. There is no doubt South Korea is a rich country. I went through customs and passport control in a different, cheerful mood. I had about two hours left before the first tour. I had some coffee, very good by the way. Then, in the airport hall, I took out my laptop and, using a power point (Koreans, obviously, look after the passengers in many ways), entered the airport password and worked online: checked my mail and updated my websites and blogs. In a mellow and happy state, I came to the meeting place. We were taken first to a small Buddhist monastery – Yonggungsa Temple (during the first tour), and then to a second one – Heungryunsa Temple (during the second tour), and after visiting the second one we visited the Memorial Hall for Incheon Landing: a memorial place to commemorate the maritime battle during the Korean War of 1950-53. We also saw the city – impressive modern high rises here and there, and older traditional streets too. We went through one of the longest bridges in the world – Incheon Grand Bridge, it seemed endless.

I would like to say a few words about the Koreans’ attitude towards trees. Firstly, they are practically as good as the Japanese as far as shaping them is concerned: they make them round, oval, etc. Secondly, they particularly value old trees, some of which are over 1000 years old. Such trees, that are often partly dry and wilted, are being saved by them – by putting supports, to prevent a tree from crashing down or losing a long and thick branch. Such trees have their charm, they have fancy forms and shapes. A similar attitude towards trees is displayed by the Japanese and Chinese, and I noticed it while travelling in these countries. We saw such trees in the Incheon monasteries, and before that, I had seen them in many places in Seoul.

After those insightful and enjoyable tours, I went through customs and passport control again (this time the lines were not long), walked around a spacious and long hall, bought a souvenir bottle of Korean fortified wine with a huge ginseng root inside, took pictures of a theatrical King’s procession and listened to a concert of young musicians. I was never bored.

In high spirits, I boarded the plane which turned out to be half-empty, and with comfort flew to Sydney – I had two seats at my disposal. I watched a movie, but for the most part was having a nap and digesting the memories and impressions.

In Sydney, we were also were looked after well, and my transit went without a hitch. Two hours later I was on a plane heading to Cairns.

I was glad to be back, home sweet home, but I fell ill soon after the arrival. I am sure it was because of a virus I caught somewhere during my trip. A bad one, because even now I am not 100%, feel weak quite often, and get tired sooner than usual. However, I am not going to give up, I just have to wait until my body has won over and chased the enemy. In the meantime, I am not sitting idle of course. Today is the first day of a long weekend, because Monday 25 April is Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance of our war heroes. Unfortunately it has to be quiet for me, with little contact with my gay friends, as I am still recovering. However, I will be busy with other things: online, books, house chores… Not too bad.

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23 April 2016

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22 April 2016

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22 April 2016

Prince (1958-2016)
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22 April 2016

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21 April 2016

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21 April 2016

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20 April 2016

Love is a natural feeling, Love is not a heterosexuals’ privilege. It’s okay to be gay.

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19 April 2016

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18 April 2016

Moscow, March 2016

Here are some photos taken in Moscow where I spent a bit over a week – from 20 to 28 March. Although I was mostly busy with my mum, I managed to go to some other places too. The main event was visiting, although it was a short visit, the Red Square and the adjacent places and streets. “Red” in old Russian means “beautiful”, and it is a beautiful square indeed. The Kremlin, which means “fortress” in old Russian, is also beautiful. I grew up in Moscow, and I have seen it all hundreds of times, but it still takes my breath away. I was there on a Saturday, the weather was warm for March, sunny, the sky was blue, and everybody there, including myself, was in high spirits. I hope you will notice it on the photos.

Unfortunately I did not have time for the gay Moscow. I limited myself to admiring good-looking guys on the city streets and in a bathhouse (a straight one, not far from my mum’s place – I went there just to relax, it is excellent for your general health). I did not have time for the gay Seoul either. I will have to catch up here in Cairns, and, hopefully, during my next visits to Moscow and Seoul.

During my stay in the Russian capital, I took pictures of some other places, including the district where I used to live and where my mum is still living, and the railway station from where an express train took me to the airport.

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18 April 2016

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17 April 2016

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16 April 2016

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15 April 2016

Seoul, Day Three

During the third full day of my stay in Korea, I decided to explore Seoul in the same tourist bus. It would be more accurate to say, in one of the buses. They come to specified stops with a 30 or 25-minute interval and they belong to the company ‘Seoul Tour Bus’. Once again, after leaving my hotel, I used the underground railway (metro), which is a fast and clean means of public transport. The fact that there was a metro station close to my hotel helped. Three stops – and I have arrived at my destination. After walking through some long tunnels, I surfaced next to the initial bus stop.

The first place I was intending to visit was Namsangol Hanok Village, a village of traditional houses in the Namsan Valley. I wanted to get to know the Korean rural architecture better, and learn more about the traditional lifestyle. The entry to the Village was free. It has a large territory which I explored independently as, unfortunately, an English tour was too far away, and I did not want to lose any time: my program was a busy one, as usual. However, thanks to detailed written explanations in English in front of the houses, I was able to receive the necessary basic information. The village does not have many houses but they reflect the most typical features of rural life in Korea.

At the beginning a surprise was awaiting me: there was a memorial there – where the Seoul Millennium Capsule was buried on 29 November 1994 to mark the 600th anniversary of Seoul as Korean capital. It contains 600 items of modern life and culture in Seoul, and is to be extracted 400 years later to mark the millennium. It is interesting to note that sister cities’ mayors or other dignitaries sent their greetings to celebrate the occasion, and you can see them engraved in stone around the heart of the memorial. One the photos shows the message from the Premier of the Australian state of New South Wales.

Then I examined the exterior and the interior of old dwellings, and learnt a fair bit about the lifestyle of its residents. I realised that they did not use beds in Korea, same as in Japan. They slept on matrasses on the floor. When, a few years ago, I was staying in a traditional guesthouse in Kyoto, Japan, it was similar. During the day, the matrasses, folded, are kept on a shelf or at the back of the room, and a lot space is freed therefore.

The room could be used for any other purpose. I must say, I did not find it very comfortable, but my Canadian friend here in Cairns said to me that you just need to get used to it, and then you will realise the many advantages this arrangement might have. He is totally OK with it, having spent several years in Japan.

The Village is an artificial creation, but it has real houses which were transported to it from other places or re-built if the old house was too old and fragile to be transported.
After visiting Namsangol Hanok Village, I explored two royal palaces which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list: Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung.

In many ways, they were similar to the first palace I visited, but they had some significant differences which, hopefully, you will be able to see on the photos. One of the palaces included a Secret Garden. You have to pay extra to enter it, and the access is with a guided tour only. I took advantage of the opportunity of course. We were lucky with the tour guide again: she spoke good English and knew the subject-matter well. I was impressed by the beauty of the palaces: the garden, the premises… Koreans take good care of their culture and history.

That is how I spent the day. In the evening, I was contemplating a wondeful sunset from the bus.

After that, I returned to my district where I watched amateur artists’ performances on three stages. A lot of dynamism and excitement, they were doing their best to impress the audience. And they did a good job indeed! It was not traditional Korean dances and songs, but Western style. Some boys and girls even dyed their hair to become blond.

After having dinner in the restaurant which I mentioned before, I went to the airport bus stop near to my hotel. I studied the timetable, and returned to my hotel where, happy and tired, I went to sleep. My flight was scheduled for 1.20pm the following day, so I was able to have plenty of sleep before checking out. I decided to leave 5 hours before the flight, just in case, to have the peace of mind. And it was the correct decision! I discovered that there was a marathon running right on my street which was one of the main transport arteries of the city. No airport buses that morning, or any transport at all. I was trying to get an answer from the policeman: how soon the marathon will end and what my options are. He understood that I was asking something but was not sure what. So he got in touch with another one who spoke English and said to me that it would take for ever, and I’d better use the metro. This I did, and was dragging my two bags through the tunnels. Instead of one hour it took me two – to travel to the airport. I was full of praise for myself because of my wise decision to leave early.

However, this ‘incident’ did not spoil the overall favourable impression. My visit to Seoul exceeded my expectations. I knew it would be good but I did not expect it to be so good.
Of course, Seoul has lots of other places to see, but there is always the next time. I’d like to mention that during my stay there two art exhibitions were organised. The National Museum of Korea was hosting an exhibition of old European masters, including Rubens, and the War Memorial, an exhibition of French impressionists. I was tempted to attend as I love both, but I overcame the temptation, because otherwise I would have missed out on Korean culture.

Another place I wanted to visit was the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. It serves as a boundary. However, it would mean a full day tour, and I decided to visit the palaces and the Village instead. No regrets, but if I come to Seoul again, it will be on my list.

To conclude, I wish to let you know that the virus is almost gone: I am able to work and even resumed my morning beach walks. However, last Monday I failed to attend a meeting of the LGBT Alliance because I was not 100%. Never mind, I’ll catch up. In addition to work and communicating with friends and colleagues, mostly by email, I am organising some repairs at my place, and have done spring cleaning too. Now you understand how bored I was with my illness : – ).

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15 April 2016

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15 April 2016

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14 April 2016

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14 April 2016

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13 April 2016

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13 April 2016

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12 April 2016

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11 April 2016

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11 April 2016

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10 April 2016

Seoul, Day Two

I will now continue with the second day. After the Tower, I got off at Gyeongbokgung Palace. First I visited the National Folk Museum of Korea (free entry). It occupies a large territory which includes peasants’ houses, a park and a variety of statues. The main building gives you a good idea of the people’s culture and traditions from ancient times. I liked it.

I must mention that I saw quite a few guys and girls in traditional costumes. It is obvious that people, including the young, are proud of their culture and history, and it is even fashionable to walk in such old style costumes and dresses. I liked it too.

The National Folk Museum of Korea is connected with the royal palace: Gyeongbokgung. The entrance fee is 1000 won. I was lucky to join an English tour which had just started. I prefer tours if the guide knows the language and the material well. The guide takes you to main spots, gives the relevant information and comments. It is also more fun to be part of a group of interested people. The palace and its territory impressed me a lot. Please note two storeys of a white building behind and above the palace wall. It is the Presidential palace. A good spot: history, nature…

The last place I visited on my second full day in Seoul was the War Memorial of Korea (free entry). It tells you volumes about the wars waged by Koreans. By the way, the Korean territory was twice its current size during some periods of time in the past.

I was particularly interested in the Korean war in the middle of the 20th century. I have already spoken about it, so am not going to repeat myself here. I found a good online resource at http://www.history.com/topics/korean-war. You could also go to Wikipedia for detailed information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War.

The War Memorial was giving away copies of a recent book on this war, 570 pages. I took an English copy with gratitude – it contains lots of fascinating facts and comments.

Please find below another set of photos. The last three show the city night life.

I was quite hungry at the end of the day, and found, in one of the best and largest department stores of the city, Lotte, not far from my hotel, a restaurant with Korean buffet. I enjoyed my dinner: the food was tasty and varied. It cost about $30. I went there again on the following night.

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10 April 2016

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9 April 2016

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9 April 2016

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8 April 2016

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8 April 2016

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7 April 2016

Seoul, Day One and Day Two

Please find below my second selection of photographs. It starts with the photos I took at the end of my first full day in Seoul. You will see a war memorial, another memorial, and city sights, including in the evening.

The second full day starts with a photo exhibition in the heart of the city. When I came to the first stop of the same tourist bus, I had some free time before the departure, and I decided to look around. I did not have to go far away. A few meters away from the ticket box and the bus stop, which happen to be opposite a police station, I saw a display dedicated to the Korean war of 1950-53. It mentions the countries which supported the Republic of Korea during the war, – 67 (!), which, they say, is a Guinness record. You will see some images which touched my heart and soul. I nearly wanted to cry when I saw pictures of children who were amongst the innocent victims. It often happens in wars, this plague of humans’ life over centuries. I hope Korea will have no more wars, and the smouldering conflict between its northern and southern parts will find a peaceful resolution.

Then you will see mostly images of the N Seoul Tower and views from it. The distance to certain cities is given, including to Sydney. Before I went up to the tower lookout, I visited an unusual establishment – Alive Museum. Those who like funny pictures could please themselves. For example, they could be photographed in staged episodes: crawling into a shark’s jaws, playing tennis with celebrities or standing on top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You could be photographed in a fun house mirror, etc. I was sold a combo ticket for 16,000 won, which included entry to this unusual museum over there. I did not understand and appreciate it straight away, and found it too bizarre initially. However, gradually I started to enjoy it. I had real fun! And I was the only visitor! It appears that such museums exist in quite a few countries.

Am still feeling unwell, and yesterday had to say no to the dinner in my suburb organised by our gay group boyZout. What a shame. Never mind, next time. There are signs of improvement in my condition. I did not go to the doctor, and am using home remedies, in particular tea with lemon and raspberry jam. It helps. The weather in Cairns is warm and sunny which helps too.

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7 April 2016

Photo of the day:

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6 April 2016

Photo of the day:

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5 April 2016

Photo of the day:

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I caught a cold all of a sudden. Am not sure what to blame for it: air conditioner here in Cairns, or air conditioner on planes or airports that might have “implanted” a virus which now has come to active life here. Am not feeling 100%, far from it, and have all the familiar symptoms of a cold. It’s been like this for a few days now. Nevertheless, am still functioning, although in a slow motion. I hate being ill, I’d rather be cheerful and energetic. But what can you do? It just happens to you. Never mind, am sure I’ll win soon, am attacking it with all my might : – )

4 April 2016

Seoul, Day One

Please find below the first selection of photographs (in addition to images of guys published previously) made during my recent trip. It starts with two photos taken at Sydney airport. I arrived in Sydney from Cairns on 15 March (there is no direct flight between Cairns and Seoul), spent one night there (and before that had some contacts with local gays) and on the following day in the morning flew off to Seoul.

Why did I choose Korea? The answer is simple – I had never been there before. When I go to Moscow, I always have to make a stopover in an Asian city, and I chose Seoul that time. Moreover, Korea had always been of interest to me, it even intrigued me in a certain way.

First of all, because of North Korea where, for many years, ruled a cruel and charismatic leader, Kim Il-sung, supported by Stalin and Mao. I was intrigued by the Korean War of 1950-53 which divided the country into two parts: communist (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea) and capitalist (Republic of Korea, or South Korea). It was a confrontation arena between the communist camp headed by the USSR and China, and the capitalist camp headed by the USA. Nobody was able to achieve a decisive victory in the war, and, as a result, a compromise was agreed upon: to create two Koreas, one of which, North Korea, has even a land border with Russia (formerly with the USSR). Currently it is not an option for me to visit North Korea, whereas to visit South Korea is a realistic option which I took advantage of. No regrets.

South Korea has become a developed country, the world leader in several fields (by the way, all the photos during that trip were taken by me with my Samsung Galaxy Note5), whereas North Korea is submerged in poverty, but prides itself in nuclear weapons, threatening other countries from time to time.

South Korea has become a democracy, whereas North Korea is a communist dictatorship where Kim Il-sung was replaced by his son, and when the latter died, by his grandson.

Historically, Korea has been squeezed in between China, Japan and Russia. It has had a complex and complicated relationship with each of its neighbours. Koreans are firm and courageous people, with a deep sense of self-respect, who have defended their identity and independence for centuries.

It was an easy ride for me, in a comfortable bus, for 15,000 won (about A$20) from the airport to my hotel in the city centre. My room was small but cosy, and I had a good rest after the tiring flights. I was not planning to do anything special during my first full day of my 3-day stay in Seoul. I thought I might go for a walk in the vicinity of my hotel, just familiarise myself with the environment, without any stress or pressure. But then I googled on my laptop and discovered that there’s a hop-on, hop-off bus, and because I had had a positive experience in different cities and countries, I decided to use it in Seoul too. A daily ticket cost 12,000 won only. The first place I visited was the National Museum of Korea which I explored thoroughly. The entry was free of charge, and they even organise tours in English. The guide was standing idle and I was offered an individual one-hour tour which I accepted with no hesitation. It was free as well, to my surprise. My guide was a girl a bit over 20 who spoke decent English, possessed an impressive knowledge and enthusiasm, and was in love with the Korean culture and history, as well as the museum which is, by the way, one of the four largest museums in the world. The museum building was erected fairly recently, in 2005. Before it had been housed in the former Japanese General Government Building, demolished later on. Korea was under Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945, which did not leave many pleasant memories for Koreans.

The two main religions in South Korea are Buddhism and Christianity. I saw wonderful Buddhist sculptures and other works of art in the museum. I got to know the Korean culture from ancient times to the present. It was a moving experience for me.

The museum also has some works of art and materials relating to China, Japan, India and some other countries.

The majority of the photos were made in the museum and in the adjacent park.

The last three were taken at the largest market in Seoul, teeming with people and activities. I also want you to get to know everyday city life which is vibrant and dynamic.

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4 April 2016

Photo of the day:

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3 April 2016

Photo of the day:

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2 April 2016

Guys in Moscow
Here are some photos of guys in Moscow whom I saw during my recent visit.

Please click on any image to enlarge it.

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1 April 2016

Welcome to April! May this month bring you joy and happiness!
I hope you will not be fooled on this Fools’ Day, April 1.

And here is the photo of the day:

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