Chuseok Full Moon
On Mt. Geumjeong, Busan.
Chuseok is the Korean Thanksgiving, a kind of Harvest Day, where the moon if full, and people give thanks. The day itself is a public holiday and there are others around it. My principle kindly relinquished my duties for the remaining two working days of the week and thus I had nine days off in a row.
On the first Saturday, Tiem and I joined some other friends, and a tour group for a visit to the DMZ. This is a fascinating place, and although one is limited to what they can do and see, it's a worthwhile day out. This was pre-nuclear test, I wonder if the tours are suspended at the moment? The ROK soldiers stand guard facing the North Koreans, the North Korean's do not take their eyes off of the ROK's and us. It's a surreal experience. We snapped away oblivious to the North's imminent intentions, oblivious to this very site soon being one of the most talked about and potentially dangerous places in the world. North Korea looks like, well South Korea from a distance. Up close however it's a strange world the North lives in, but by now you will know this for yourselves.
Me and an ROK Soldier
At the DMZ. Still on the South side.
Tiem was not as fortunate as I, and had to work on the Monday and Wednesday of Chuseok week, so I decamped to Yeoju on the Sunday evening. On Tuesday we were fortunate enough to be invited along with Tiem's delightful co-teacher and her family to Andong. More luck came our way as Andong was celebrating it's annual Mask Festival. It reminded me of a large summer fete, with fantastic performances on display. One performance that stood out involved two 'rival' gangs jeering each other on as their respective leaders were hoisted above their heads on wooden sections. At the end of the contest, the crowd joined in the organised-chaos. For the record, our side lost? Next stop in Andong was Haehoe, a real life working traditional village, very much unlike the purpose built villages in Seoul and Suwon. As part of the mask festivities we were treated to a Slovakian folk performance, those Europeans are a strange bunch? The village is famed for a royal visit by the Queen of England herself. Deserving of royalty it is too, quite a delightful place. Winding ally ways, wind between the clay walls, and wooden houses are thatched like centuries ago.
Me, Tiem and an ROK Soldier
At the DMZ. This time we are behind the line and thus in North Korea!
The heating system in these houses is unchanged; an under floor oven provides the house with warmth. To this day contemporary Korean abodes use under floor heating, although now they are fueled by electricity not wood and coal. It's a shame Korea has turned from this picturesque sanctuary to a sea of high rise monstrosities, but that's modern ways for you.
On Wednesday afternoon we caught a bus from Yeoju to Wonju, then from Wonju we made the journey down to the south coast to Busan. Having heard nightmare tales of Chuseok traffic, we were thrilled that the roads were quiet. Once in Busan we found our motel then conquered Busan Tower. The arduous elevator ride was worth it as the night time views over the city were sumptuous. On Thursday morning we visited Jadelkie Fish Market, which was great. We then caught a ferry to Geoje-do. What a horror that was? All week I had been boasting about my sea faring, Portsmouth born, legs; regaling tales of fishing trips and the like. How much of a tool did I feel when five minutes into the 45 minute crossing, I got a severe case of sea sickness. I say
Taken from within the meeting room.
severe, I felt sick so it felt severe? Once on Geoje-do we were disappointed that all boats to Oido were cancelled, the sea was mighty ferocious that day! It must have been to affect Caption Dunk? Geoje-do felt like the Isle of Wight. The harbor was quaint and we enjoyed a taxi ride through the island to get to the POW camp. The camp is like an attraction now, but it was interesting enough and whiled away an hour or so. Friday was Cheseok, and the day we chose to hang around in Busan proper. First stop was the almighty temple, Beomeosa. This was impressive, set high up in the hills, it's beauty encapsulates all who gaze upon it. After Beomeosa we made our way to Geumjeong Park with the intention of catching the cable car to the mountain's summit to see the fortress remains. Happy Chuseok, the cable car operators had taken the day off! Instead we scaled the mountain on foot, which turned into an enjoyable and rewarding experience. The views over Busan were impressive. In the evening we enjoyed an outside meal of fresh fish. On Friday we left Busan and made our way into the countryside
Reflections and ROK's
Standing guard watching the North.
and Seongnamsa Temple. It was fantastic to get out of the city and breath the fresh mountain air. Seongnamsa, like Beomeosa, is set in stunning surroundings. The temple doubles as a convent and I got told off by an elderly nun for getting too close with my shoes on! We timed our visit just right as we arrived while it was still light, then at around 6pm when it went dark the nuns began to prey. The scenario was perfect; the sound of bells and chimes rang out as the nuns preyed in the temples, a white dog ran around the grounds which added to the madjesty of the moment. We stood in silence as we soaked up the atmosphere; it was quite special. The next morning we made our way back to Busan before catching the bus back to Seoul. It had been a great week, spent in perfect company, and I feel I've now seen what Korea can really offer.
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