When you’re on a bus like this, the tendency is to forget where you are. All of the ambient non-sense, and unnecessary dialogue, will scramble your brain. Next time, get your own car first. Then roll down your window all the way before lighting a cigarette.
It was right around this time 2010 that we were in Busan for a long weekend, and I really wished that I was there today. So in memory, I posted a few previously unpublished photos from our day of following a trail of two cities: from the Haeundae (해운대) resort area, and around the bend through a marina to the beautiful (and bustling) Gwangalli Beach (광안리). Probably would have been quicker to just take a cab. Ahhhhh, the good times. May they last forever.
Nature Photography from places all over South Korea likeJeju-do, Seorak-san, Mudeung-san, Busan, & Boseong using both my Canon A590 and EOS D60 digital cameras
Polish up on yer chop-sticking, bow from the waist, and don’t forget to take your fucking shoes off because 2010-2012 is Visit Korea Year! That’s what I learned on our second trip to Seoul last year when we stumbled upon a very large, sugar cone-like plastic swirl across the street from City Hall. This turned out to be the beginnings of a lantern festival. Approximately fifty highly ornate paper lamps lit their way down the center of Cheonggyecheon Stream as the water calmly rushed beneath their plywood platforms. We were struck by how difficult it must have been to assemble and run power to these contraptions in the middle of the water. Maybe this happens every year around November 13th, or maybe we just got lucky. English brochures were not available. In memory of happy times, here are a few of the pictures we took. Enjoy!
Namsan Tower, more commonly known as Seoul tower, is one of the most blatant over the top rip-offs I’ve found in Korea. We went there on a Saturday night. It was balls hot, so we took the cable car up to the tower entrance in Namsan Park; 7000 KRW for a two-way ticket. It seemed half the city had the same inclination, so we had to sweat it out in line for about 20 minutes. The other half of the city, it seemed, was waiting in line to ride the elevator up 200 meters to the tower observatory. We took our place at the back of the line, which cost an additional 8000 KRW. Waiting in line for another 30 minutes or so, we finally got to the top of the tower, and the view was hazy. BUT, it was an interesting experience nevertheless. Getting back down from the observatory was a kick to the mettle if there ever was one. The line for the down elevator stretched completely around the observatory deck… twice. We were lucky to make it back down in time for the last cable car. Had we missed that, sparks really would have flown. Bottom line, approach this hot spot of tourism with caution.
The critically acclaimed South Korean musical, Nanta, is now playing in Jeju City on Jeju Island (also playing in Seoul, Gangnam Area). It’s the story of three cooks who have to prepare food for a last minute wedding with the help of their manager’s incompetent nephew. The performance is almost totally non-verbal, and involves acrobatics, slapstick humor, as well as, improvisational music using everyday kitchen materials. To my surprise, there was some required audience participation.
Curtains drew, and the actors began prancing their way around a steamy, stainless steel cauldron — tossing Oregano and Parmesan cheese like confetti. They began to argue over how the soup tasted. Thumbs up? Or thumbs down? No one could decide, so two of the five actors jumped off of the stage and into the audience. Quickly concealing the bottle of half empty Chivas Regal, I began to slouch. Please don’t choose the foreigner. Please don’t choose the foreigner. But it was no use… She looked right at me and commanded, “You. Yes, you! The man!” They pushed me up onto the stage, draped a blue tarp looking thing over my shoulders, and slapped a ridiculous hat onto my head. The lights were so bright, I could scarcely see the crowd. Thank God. Next to me was a much younger Korean girl, probably in her early teens, looking even more perplexed than I was. We were then instructed to eat the soup (which was delicious) while the actors danced around the kitchen trying to kill a fly. Naturally, the fly landed on the ear of my ridiculous looking hat. They killed it. They asked how the soup was. “Good!” we screamed. Then out of nowhere, the bowls were ripped from our hands, rice flung high into the air, and apparently, I got married.
It’s only 50 minutes by bus from Gwangju to Yeongam. From here you can simply hop in a cab and point to the obvious mountain in the distance and they’ll take you to the park entrance for 5000 KRW. The open faced summit and lack of trees give this range of mountains a striking resemblance to the Seoraksan National Park area. The climb was filled with stairs, something I’ve gotten used to here in Korea, but the summit is only 800 meters. Find more information about my day hike in Jeollanam-do.
Fifty minutes on a bus from the U-Square Terminal in Gwangju will bring you to the epicenter of Korean bamboo, Damyang. We finally went there a few weeks ago after months of, “Hey, we should go do this.” The main bamboo park, located just across the river and only a block or two away from Damyang’s landmark Metasequoia Avenue, was much smaller than expected. Like every other formalized attraction in Korea, it was way overcrowded with families, many of whom were utterly fascinated by the sight of non-Koreans in public. I lost count of how many times someone pointed out that I was a weygookin (foreigner) or meegook saram (american person). Can you imagine saying Asian every time you saw one walk by on the street? Really fucking rude, I think… but since Korean society is so homogeneous, they don’t see it that way. Eleven months deep and I’m still not sure what they find so particularly interesting about us to gawk over. I am quite sure that there are other bamboo forests in the area which are much larger, less crowded, and allow visitors to roam freely. From here, we walked along the river to Metasequoia Avenue. Also very crowded, but we saw a little boy erratically operating his Power Wheel go and crash into one of the massive trees.
Nearly all Korean hagwon teachers get 6 days off for Summer vacation during July. We spent ours in (or on) Jeju-do. For the second time, I stayed at the Tae Gong Gak located above the Seogwipo Harbor. One of the owners even remembered me from when I went to Jeju for the Chuseok holiday last October. “Hey, I know your face. You were here with a girl last time. Where is she?” She stayed in the Hyatt Hotel in the Jungmun Resort area, which is a 30 minute ride away on the number 600 Bus.
After a day or two of drinking Chivas Regal and chatting it up with fellow vacationers by the pool at the Hyatt Hotel, we woke up early for a hike to the summit of Halla mountain in Hallasan National Park. Although this is the tallest mountain in South Korea, the incline is gradual and substantially easier to summit than the #2 mountain in Korea, Jiri-san, or the #3, Seorak-san — both of which I hiked earlier this year. Of the several routes to take, we chose the Yeongshil trail for it’s epic scenery. Unfortunately, the weather was anything but fabulous; Yeongshil ended up being a cloud maze and we couldn’t see shit. We came down through the Orimok valley which was a kilometer longer, had more stairs, and was less interesting to maneuver.
Moon’s Guide to South Korea recommended hiking the small peak of Songak-san, located on a small peninsula at Jeju’s West end and supposedly offering some of the most splendid views of Halla-san and the adjacent mound of rock called Sanbang-san. I set out the next day in search of glory and got lost in a bumfuck beach town called Moseulpo, but soon found my way to Songak-san Park via taxi for 5000 KRW. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a small black sand beach and several sea caves dug into the massive cliffs. During World War II, the Japanese forced Jeju residents to build these caves for use in suicide attacks against the Allied forces. It was a creepy area to explore. Having to worry about the collapsing hillside and look out for scurrying centipedes, crabs, and spiders, I did not dare venture into any of the caves. Probably not worth the risk anyways. As was the situation the previous day, the weather affording no magnificent view atop Songak-san. Bummer, dude.