Spiders, Snakes, Frogs and all things nice. Joopil Spider Museum

Arachnopia, nestled to the east of Seoul, set amongst rolling hills and deep valleys lush green narrow winding roads,  you will happen upon the Joopil spider museum. A small unexpected sign points the way from a main road and for the curious, the route of discovery awaits.

The entrance to the main live exhibit hall where Spiders, Snakes and other live specimens can be found and touched along with fossils, preserved specimens and artwork.

The museum was founded in 2006 by Professor Joo-Pil Kim of Donggul University to house what amounted to 40 years of research, collecting and work.  His life studies and travels to over 100 countries collecting specimens and doing research which has been then passed onto generations of students passing through Dongguk University on a variety of courses have been able to utilize the findings and teaching of Professor Joo-Pil Kim  into course notes and theories.

Visitors, especially children are urged to interact with the exhibits within the main building, this includes holding a variety of spiders mainly from the Tarantula family, many the size of the hands that hold these live specimens.

Visitors and children are gentle prompted to encounter and touch the exhibits.

Small girl holding spider at museum as part of the introduction programme for visitors.

Within the exhibition halls many other preserved specimens can be viewed, these include snakes, insects and a variety of creatures found around the site. On the upper floor is various preserved and biologically presented research material which includes, mammals, insects, frogs, snakes and fossils of the region available for study and research with numerous trays of collected specimens representing 40 years of field work. An impressive array of butterflies, moths and gem / mineral rocks are on display.

Outside the  main hall there is a gallery, and grounds with walks and some interesting displays.

Walking around the site the visitor will find numerous items of interest, an art gallery, curios display of historic related items….Korean furniture and household goods, large minerals displays.  Moving up the hill you can master a number of steps cut steeply into the hillside where the arboretum surrounds the site.

Dense woodland and planting draws the visitor’s eye to splashes of colour and interesting plants that cry out for attention.

Statues look our over the mountainous terrain reminiscence for the writer of Ecuadorian rainforest.

A small area is dedicated to various art and statues whose presence is sometimes camouflaged by the surrounding vegetation.

On an upper level you will encounter a child’s play area and a giant spider protecting the founder’s bust and information. Professor Joo-Pil Kim has invested his time, collections and a great deal of money to make the museum and surrounding attractions a voyage of discovery for visitors and students alike.   Its a little off the beaten route but well worth the journey.

A giant spider is an apt guardian for the golden bust and information of Professor Joo-Pil Kim in the background

The display halls, study centre and exhibits room are not the only discoveries available for visitors of all ages at the site.  We saw a mirage of butterflies dancing in flitted sunlight, golden frogs hopping around reeds, caterpillars, various insets and some undiscovered creatures lurking in the woods, samples of wildlife are also housed on the slopes so if you hear the odd co-cooing of a distance owl, the shout of a pheasant,  or call of a bird, it may be just one of the many attractions to be found at the center that makes this small but perfectly formed attraction a great day our for the young, older person and family. The prefect mix of enjoyment, education and Korean countryside.

There are areas for children to explore, play and discover frogs and butterflies.

The Joopil Spider Museum is open at regular times and available for study and research .

Joopil Spider Museum.

The Joopil Spider Museum ( hptt//www.arachnopia.com )  can be found at # 528, Jinjung-Ri. Joan-Myun. Namyangjoo-Si, Gyunggi-Do  472-872 Korea, about 35 minutes outside Seoul, directions on their web pages. Tel.82-31-576-7908-9.


ASEAN Tourism Forum 2012 Manado, Sulawesi Island, Indonesia.

ASEAN 2012 kicks off promotion with an announcement that an impressive 40% increase in interest and reservations are already logged for the  forthcoming tourism venue, ATF 2012 due January 13-15th at the Golden  Kawanua Convention Centre, Manado.

The main island of Sulawesi

Sulawesi with its turbulent history has over the years suffered many natural disasters and cultural wars and difficulties. Perhaps the most recent being the center of inter-religious muslim-christian conflicts currently sweeping the world.  Sulwesi is the 11th largest island in the world, yet containing some of the most poorest inhabitants who survive below the poverty line on just $1US a day. Child labour and trafficking are the highest in the world, and overshadow an otherwise largely undiscovered slice of paradise.


Manado is situated in the upper region of Sulawesi Island, close to the Philippines

Manado has managed to secure some resort developments but these privately funded businesses do not always pass profits onto the locals in any scale. Employment assists the economy but a lot of imported skilled labour is employed without the continued education of locals to replemise the growing needs most of which are centered around diving tourism, PADI schools and a number of other facilities offering dive support or related  business openings.

Some enterprising Indonesians have however grasped the opportunity of the new tourists who visit the region and a  host of glass-bottomed boats tours, food outlets, fishing and scuba items, tee shirts and other tourist related must-haves are surfacing around the resorts and hotels catering for the international diver. Sulawesi has one of the lowest educated and literate populations in the world, more is needed to address this problem.

The Way Ahead for Manado

Manado does however offer a kind of alternative Bali and not by accident. It was this thinking that the Indonesian government leans towards in the promotion of the region. Bali has now largely over run the tourism industry, all year round more tourists than locals can be counter on the streets of most towns within the island.International tourism has embraced tourism and Bali as the ultimate paradise, recently Koreans also acknowledged this fact and now dominate the island recently discovering the 6 hour flight to be an acceptable time distance to travel to enjoy the beaches, weather and lifestyle of the Balinese people and their island paradise.

Bali offers a feeling of safety, comfort and tropical paradise, there are no perceived threats from Islamic or Muslim influences despite the not-so-recent infamous Bali bombings. Its Hindu population, gothic style buildings add all the elements for a truly tropical exotic holiday.

Saturated with tourism, alternative locations are being promoted, developed and discovered by global travellers that meet the same needs as Bali. Indonesia has risen to meet this challenge and in doing so has put itself in direct competition to the Philippines resorts of Cebu, Bohol and Bocoray where affluent Koreans tourists are the prime catch. What Manado does not yet have but will need to provide will be world class golf facilities, sports and family interest  pastimes if  Koreans and other travellers  are to be secured along with good flight connections.

The good news is, Manado City has been for recent years marketed as the new international city and many top hotels have invested and speculated at the possibility that the dream could in fact come true. Some of the best beaches in the world are offered on the coastline of the island, nature at its most natural and pristine is available for travellers and tourists to enjoy. The costs are low and accommodation offered from basic to 5 star. Hotels such as Novatel have built resort type accommodation with sport and golf courses as part of their enticement recognising the needs of modern tourism.

Diving is among the best sites in the world with unspoilt coral and fish colonies available to beginner, novice and expert diver alike. Eco-tourism, rainforest and mountain walks are also available in this virgin tourism market but sadly many of the species that visitors come to see alive and free running within the green canopy can be found, stuffed as trophies in the many markets scattered around the city in particular Tarsius Spectrum, the smallest primate in the world and other live specimens like the Black Macaque monkey, sold openly as pets.  If eco-tourism is to flourish then these practices are best confined to the out-lying villages like Tomohon where dog meat is normal cuisine and Paniki  (smoked bat) is a local specialty.

Paniki, smoked bats for sale in Tomohon village, Photo courtesy of MZGANI

Bats are most likely the only nightlife in the region, although recent years great developments have occurred in the city, night time entertainment grins to a halt around 10pm save a few local bars, here resorts take over keeping the guests on-site and spending within their walls. This is a shame as Indonesia known as the land of smiling faces has a lot of traditional culture to offer culture hungry visitors which hopefully will be addressed by some enterprising entrepreneurs in the near future.

More to follow anon

Seoul food goes G20

South Korea and Seoul embraces the world: The economic stability of this small divided peninsula country has really been established by the global trade agreements of the current president. Korea maintains a high living standard, low tax, technological development strategy to maintaining the slice of the Asean trading market whilst developing new relations on a global basis with favorable terms in quotas, not necessary fair to their trading partners but required to maintain the economic growth of Korea.

President Myung Bak Lee a self made man of humble up-bringing worked hard to achieve recognition from an early age in the business world. He quickly gleaned the need to establish links with outlets in industry and this outwards seeking aim to establish trade and revenue was utilized during his period as Mayor of Seoul. Certainly it is proving to be the correct route for the positioning of Korea in a global marketplace, so much so that Korea hosted the G20 conference in 2010.

Most Koreans outside the business field may not appreciate the fact that Korea made goods cost as much in the home market as overseas and prices held artificially higher than could be otherwise marketed, however the ideology appears to be that the goods cost the same anywhere in the world.  This keeps the price competitive with other brands and ensures sales of Korean goods.

It is this placement, pricing and sales strategy that has assisted the Korean products a place on the selves of European, American and Asian-Pacific shops while advancements in technology ensures the latest tech gadgets are sought after items.

JEJU ISLAND, Korea’s Maderia

Korea has a local yet not so well-kept secret, which if given any more recognition would immediate  offer a comparison to Madeira, Jeju island, or Jeju Do as listed on maps. An automatist governed legal entity, tax haven and investors independent Korean state. This semi-tropical paradise sighted an hour flight from Seoul laying 220 miles off the southern tip of South Korea is uniquely special.

Known in Korea for its abundant of fruit that commands high prices even by Korean standards, it’s the playground of the people of Korea looking to take a well-earned break, relax, chill out Korean style. 

Teddys on display at the Shilla Hotel

Teddys on display at the Shilla Hotel


But is ain’t all relaxing. Great walks, and some very energetic, quad-biking, climbing, sea and water sports are available across the island for any who wishes to indulge. For the children, there is the Teddy Bear factory/Museum, toy and paper doll museums, various funfair type attractions, ships, submarines and a whole lot more. Culturally, musical museums allow the visitor to experience  many of the  instruments as they dare…its a very hands on place, Africa centre, the erotic park, World Eros Museum, also known as the museum for love, displays provocative, maybe naughty yet fascinating statues and figures, a smaller version of the sex museum of Amsterdam perhaps…Folk villages, a football stadium to take the breath away, botanical gardens and so much more to offer the visitor that once is just not enough time to see all that paradise has in store. 

A large polished brass sculpture at the Shilla Hotel Jedu

A large polished brass sculpture at the Shilla Hotel Jeju


Jeju is predominately an ancient volcanic outcrop with a massive extinct crater in its centre that remains shrouded in mist most of the year. Craggy, mountainous terrain, winding picturesque roads, surrounded with fields of crops, plantations, greenhouses and orchards, furnished and fed by  rich dark soil high in nitrates that assist the development of three seasons and continuous fruiting of fresh food produce within this temperate climate. 

The most wonderful juicy and somewhat confusing fruit and vegetables are grown here. What you discover is new slant of flavours for fruit that you thought you knew . 

 Black grapes as big as tomatoes that taste like melons, oranges with flavours that you would think too good to be real, tomatoes that are eaten as the fruit they are, not as if vegetables we are used to. Seasonable wonders the people of the mainland wait eagerly year round to purchase.  

Even small children are encouraged to participate in all activities including submariens dives off the coast of Jedu

Even small children are encouraged to participate in all activities including submarines dives off the coast of Jeju


The submarine holds around 40 people and makes dives of around 30 minutes

The submarine holds around 40 people and makes dives of around 30 minutes


The submarine ride is an interesting excursion we took as a family and proved to be children friendly despite the awkward entry and exits points which normally European operators would shy away from. In Korea tourists are welcomed, often given privileged status, children are certainly accommodated everywhere with just height restriction on some rides and amusement facilities in place. 

Koi carp enjoy a treat at the Shilla

Koi carp enjoy a treat at the Shilla


Up close and personal, Koi style.

Up close and personal, Koi style.


We stayed at the Shilla hotel, the five star sister hotel of the famous Shilla in Seoul. Regulars and membership holders of this hotel chain enjoy generous discounts on rack rates and additional discounts on spending. Korea is a location where customer service, loyalty cards and  regular custom is appreciated, recognised and rewarded by businesses.  

Restaurants are abundance as too western style hotels of excellent quality. But don’t be put off the smaller cafe style eateries that provide excellent fare at very reasonable prices. Hire a taxi for the day, rent a car but whatever you do take some time to visit the four corners of this island and get acquainted with this special place. After all, you know you will be coming back as soon as you arrive and certainly as you finish the first visit… the only question is when?. 

Travel shows, at the WTM and AFT

As international travel professionals prepare for presentations, tourism boards also update information in preparation of the UK largest travel show, the WTM, World Travel Market. Trade buyers, small and larger, global operators accumulate information packages for regular clients, contacts andfuture hopefuls they desire to secure business from.  Behind the scenes the media wheel turns not so slowly and marketing gurus flaunt faniful ideas, their views on “how best to”, yet at the end of the day, its down to individual personalities and salesmanship to make the deals, draw together all the elements of success for all this circus to evolve into the globalisation of tourism promotion under one roof. The UK is not  alone in this spectacle. ITB, Travelmart, and travelusa are but a few in a long list of organised tourism promotions. 

Reed Exhibitions with its singular charitable foundation, Just a Drop gives to various good causes around the planet. The machinery of the show moves on.  Its all a bit impersonal already, yet without this grand  commerce, how would the tourism industry survive. One wonders if the giving is a marketing tool or a real emotional fulfillment for the benefit of others. The commercialisation of charity into something of a sideshow is a depressing though, however this too may be the reality of modern life, Small charitie such as www.eyeonthewild.org who do local projects for the benefit of people, environments and causes damaged or influenced as a direct result of tourism struggle to achieve funding and promotion of worthy beneficiaries. An analogy somewhat akin to the tourism business.

     November 10 – 13th Excel London

    World Travel market


An example of how this is best seen and dealt with, in Asian countries may well be the ATF. The Asean Travel Forum.

The next show is due to be held in the city of Ha Noi, Vietnam from the 5-12th January 2009


Unlike the WTM and other global exhibitions, ATF is also a collective of the Asian countries governmental ministers all debating and actioning the best way to self promote, protect their sovereign states at the same time as working together and acting in unison without compromising each delicate balanced tourism industry at the expense or each other or to the lost of another destination. Diplomacy at its best.

Unlike most European countries and other global destinations, Asean may be best compared to Central America. There are one or two prime destinations within a pennisular of several countries, very advanced enjoying the wealth from foriegn investment and taking the largest slice of the tourism pie.

Simiarly, Asia, a union of countries all self and jointly promoting (as long as it not at the expense of their prime locations). Malaysia certainly takes a prime position within the Asean group and having spent vast resources over the last few years to establish itself as a safe destination, friendly 2nd home  and retirement location. Investment into KL in particular is evident of the success of this programme. The Uk, South Korea and China being the major players there. 

Thailand (currently sufferring political unrest) best compared to Costa Rica, the pearl in the shell of Asia. Jealously guards its tourism industry despite concerns on the large established sex industry which no doubt accounts for a vast slice of its income. A lot of information, promotion and the clean up of the under age and criminal elements of this trade has been put into displaying the other side of Thailand and if reading various travel blogs of younger, first-time travellers to thailand is anything to go by, there is a curious balance between enjoying, and frowning on this aspect of tourism within Thailand, the exploits of middle-aged men, and women seen within the redder entertainment regions of the country.

India, a major player in investment, tourism and travel throughout Asia is a likely brother in arms, or a threat to the current stablibity of the group. whilst China hovering on the peripheral of introduction into the Asean family, the group’s top members may well be concerned about how their cousins may influence travel trends but is the lure of the yellow dollar too alluring as many Chinese travellers are now seeking international travel since relaxation of travel restrictions and easy access/visa agreements are forged.

South Korea has certainly been an agressive golf frenzied market driven high end tourism target for many of the current members who can offer sophisticated destination. Investment by South Koreans who too have been allowed relaxed monetary controls due to the stock piles of devaluing dollars within their country, have been keen to examine local international markets,  Brunei, Philippines, Malaysia have lured these travellers, investors and residents, not just from Korea particularly, but on a global targeted promotion. 

But its all done on a friendly and civilised level. I do wonder and have for many years how the role that the Asean management group will evolve at the very top of the tree. Will it support, police the poorer members, Cambodia, Laos. Comment, influence and bring about harmony to Myanmar. Certainly, when the recent cyclone hit this troubled region, the Association of South East Asian Nations was one of the first to broadcast and promote relief aid requests and support.

Currently there are thirteen member states, but that can quickly change as korean, south and north, China, India, other Asian countries may deem this the best way to self govern, promote and support their regions within the unity of the group. Hopefully, Asean will not go the same as Europe in trying to introduce an expensive regional state that governs all. A fat cash cow for the bureaucrats to milk dry for years to come.

As the governments and tourism industry of Europe and other regions of the world looks at the Asean operations and working profile, they must wonder if they have seen the magic formula to self-support and self promote and how long will it be before the voice of Asean becomes the unified voice of all of Asia.

Threat or friend, it is at the very least a powerful and united voice. Fair trade agreement and other politically correct proceedures are introduced and debated on an almost daily basis.  The joint statements issued by members as a collective can be viewed on http://www.aseansec.org.   once you have seen how the system is working then the realisation that somehow and through a lot of hard work, Asean has become a voice to be recognised and soon I suspect a policital machine to influence the views of all asian countries to stand beside the EC commission and possible too the United nations.

Folk Village seoul

Any visitor to the city of Seoul should take time out to visit the folk village south of the city.  A collection of traditional building from old Korea set in a village type layout extending across many acres. Within this complex are various displays, exhibitions and historic displays.  interspersed with restaurants, refreshment areas, photo opportunities and Traditional Korean costume try on and take a picture. 

Traditional hanook

Traditional hanok


Traditional village house

Traditional village house


 As well as examples of various historic and social level houses at the village displays old skills, horse riding etc are always available for the visitor to enjoy http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/intro.html 

Riding skills

Riding skills


      Alongside various educational displays and information areas, there is a small funfair, relaxation and play area for the young, and young-at-heart.
Vegables and Chimchee storage and manufacture

Vegetables and Chimchee storage and manufacture


roundabouts abound

roundabouts abound


parasols for sunny days

parasols for sunny days


Stop that car....

Stop that car....


Young and old--er enjoy shows at the village

Young and old--er enjoy shows at the village


Well the gods look happy

Well the gods look happy


Seoul Food

My recent visit to Seoul, South Korea was to celebrate the 1st birthday of my son James.  As the 2nd child his was not to be such a big event as the first, Angelica who had her party there two years back.  The event was elaborate by any standards with mum-in-law organising most of the event in advance of our arrival.

On the day, the customary table was laid out and food offered to the guests, this was done in our home(Mum’s apartment) along with a healthy collection of relatives, photographers and friends.

Korean 1st Birthday for james

Korean 1st Birthday for james

The table an ornate affair had sweets, cakes, fruit and various delectities available, the duty of the parents was to ensure the well being of the child on his journey and ntroduction to life.

We were all dressed in our Korean garments, James had a new outfit and I wore one of my wife’s father as my own had been mistakenly left in the UK before we travelled. Mother, had her pink outfit and all were embroided on the finest silk with delicate buttons and edging.

James as the forth coming head of the table practises his role on his first birthday

James as the forth coming head of the table practises his role on his first birthday


Shortly after this we retuired to the Shilla hotel, a wonderful 5 star hotel with traditional design fused into a modern section.  The Shilla is well-known for the standard of its buffee lunches (great value, selection and quality of food I can confirm), where the birthday boy, along with selected guests enjoyed a meal before retiring to a room for a break from the festive activities.

Tradition and modern mix at the Shilla Hotel Seoul

Tradition and modern mix at the Shilla Hotel Seoul