Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

First weekend away

Posted by quirksalight on April 22, 2008

I’ve been in Korea for two months now and last weekend was the first time I left the Incheon/Seoul area since I arrived. Which is understandable, as there is so much to do here as it is. But, I want to see the rest of the country too.

This past weekend, I was in Gyeongsnagbuk-do, the middle eastern province of Korea. Several of us were getting together at Yeongju, a small city on the northern edge of the province. And when I mean small, I mean that it’s the size of Reykjavik, Iceland, which is small enough to walk across in 30 minutes.

But the biggest thing was the attitude towards foreigners. I guess I’m used to Incheon and Seoul, where seeing a foreigner isn’t TOO unusual. But during the entire weekend, it was a total spectacle when we were walking around. Several English speakers, and all but one blatantly non-Korean. In one of the smaller towns, kids would literally stop biking to stare while saying, “way-gook, way-gook,” which means “foreigner, foreigner”. Weird…

We hit a lot of spots on Saturday, which was our main activity day, as we all arrived late on Friday, and had to leave on Sunday. So, first was Danyang, to see the Gosu cave. Completely different experience than in the US… here, you have to touch the sides of the cave, as the walkway is completely wrapped around it. I am a pretty short person, and I was bending over and twisting my body to get around the passages. Totally felt bad for my friend, who’s 6’4. Poor guy was almost crawling in some places. 😛 It was also a vertical and horizontal walkway…we went up several hundred meters (yes, that many stairs) in a live cave, which means the ambient humidity was at 96%.
At the cave, there were vendors (of course) and several of them were selling amethyst jewelry so cheap! It turns out that they (and other semi-precious stones) are mined in this province. Hence, cheap. Look – pretty earrings and a little charm for my phone!

We stayed in Danyang for lunch – it was catfish stew, Korean style. The hostess took one look at us and had this “OMG” smile, and looked so relieved when I replied back to her in Korean. The food was delicious, as it came straight out of the fish tank outside. :p And no, we did not pick out the fish, though it was an option. Danyang was beautiful – the waterfront was gorgeous under the afternoon sun. I can’t wait to be back here after the rains arrive.
Next, we went to Punggi. This is a small town, and not used to tourists. Hence, we got a lot of stares and comments in Korean. The reason to visit here is the hot spring nearby and the ginseng market. The ginseng market was HUGE. I have never seen so many stores and stalls with ginseng, which is one of the main commodities from this region. We bought some tea and ginseng candy and headed off to the spa via taxi.

The taxi driver, Mr Jang, was a rather brusque man, but got us to the spa. When we got out, I decided to take his card just in case we needed it. Definitely a good idea. Because we walked in, and realized that it wasn’t really a spa, but one of the Korean baths that was built over a hot spring. Not what I expected or wanted. The guys left the decision to stay or go to me, and I decided that it was best to leave, as I also didn’t want to get all clean and then re-dress in my sweaty clothes. So I called Mr. Jang and asked him to take us to the Heuibang trailhead at the base of Mt. Sobaek.

I think he may have thought we were a little nuts heading to the trail this late in the day, but we were only planning to go up to the Heuibang waterfall, which is about 2 km up the trail, and we should make it up there in little over an hour. This was a tough hike. The trail was full of large granite rocks, and it wasn’t walking up as much as scrambling over rocks. At least for me. Others with longer legs did not have as much difficulty as I. :p
But it was worth it. Achy body and all – it was a beautiful waterfall, and the scenery up and down was excellent.
The way down was faster, but also in some ways, more difficult do to rocks. I am going to invest in a good hiking pole if I am going to continue to do this. (which I am) We get to the trailhead, only to find out we missed the bus by 10 mins. The next one would get there in about 75 minutes. ARGH! So out comes the card to call Mr. Jang for the third taxi ride today. There was another woman waiting there for the same bus, so I offered her a ride with us, which she gladly accepted, as she wasn’t looking forward to waiting either.
And that was our Saturday. 🙂
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pictures here

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2 Responses to “First weekend away”

  1. Amy said

    ha, now you know how I feel every single day I’m here. I get jealous when I’m with my “western” friends and all the kids say hello to them. I KNOW ENGLISH TOO!!! 😦

  2. gmlee7 said

    wow, u are a real traveler!
    i guess u will feel that many “omg” smiles when u go to some rural places in korea 🙂

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