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Published: June 24th 2009
Wow a week flies! The folks kept themselves well occupied checking out the sights and sounds of Seoul, Incheon and the surrounds and then it was Friday again, much to my delight. We had been invited to have dinner with all the staff from school and admittedly I was worried cause I had been told that we were going for a traditional Korean meal, how the three of us were going to make it through a traditional Korean meal without being rude and declining something that looked undesirable, was going to be a challenge. Lucky for us at the last minute there was a change of plan and Japanese was on the menu. Boy oh boy what a treat the meal was absolutely amazing.
[At this point, while possibly not good to admit, I should mention that Korean food in general is super average, even a little touch and go at times and it’s just no contest when compared with other cuisines like Thai and Japanese. I’ve gone from eating any form of Korean food put in front of me (hence the extra butt I have developed since my arrival) to avoiding most forms of the daily offerings. Basically it’s
BBQ or nothing for me as far as Korean food goes these days. I think my general constitution is thanking me for this “lifestyle choice” , kimchi and rice 3 times a day just wasn’t cutting it.]
A lovely dinner and decent cup of coffee later and we were hitting the sack in preparation for another early morning wake up to head to the Infamous Chuncheon.
I’d been a little over eager and gotten the folks to buy bus tickets for Chuncheon the previous day only to wake up to rainy weather. I tell you it pays to watch the weather forecast as avidly as the rest of Korea does cause blow me down if they forecast rain then it rains (unlike SA weather forecasts). Since we had the tickets we decided to head to the bus terminal to see if we could change our tickets to the following day and we’d then planned to take the rest of the day from there. It turned out however that the unhelpful ticket lady was not going to swap our tickets for us and was insisting that we buy new tickets so we sucked it up and decided to go
to Chuncheon regardless of the weather. One Dunking Doghnuts coffee (No I didn’t spell this wrong), a nap with my service for dad and two hours later we arrived in Chuncheon in the now really pouring rain.
Chuncheon is known for a couple of things: its massive lake, its beautiful walks, the hidden temple and most of all its Dak Galbi for which they have an entire street of restaurants dedicated to serving the stuff. The temple was the main attraction for us so we set out to make our way in its directions. It always interests me how you can have a tourist information centre that clearly states English as one of its languages in which you can seek help yet you arrive and at best they can offer very sketchy directions in less than limited English, astounding! So after ambling around the streets, visiting the tourist info lady twice, all in the pouring rain, thankfully we deciphered the dicey directions and 20minutes later the trusty city bus delivered us at the top of Chuncheon dam giving us an incredible view of the amazing water and hydroelectric plant. A Couple of pictures later (dad was testing out his
new son called Nikon D500) and we found ourselves on the doc waiting to catch the boat to Cheongpyeongsa.
The boat trip to Cheongpyeongsa was both fun and amusing, we had one real character of an ajoshi who was entertaining the crowd with a whole bunch of banta and the general scenery was very intriguing and beautiful. I felt like I was entering a mining quarry with beautifully clear green water and amazing skree covered banks all over shadowed by magnificent trees, it’s a super cool way to start a treck to a temple and definitely adds to the mystique of a place.
It’s a fair walk to the temple but it’s really stunning amongst the trees and what was even nicer was that it was fairly quite, I think the weather had deterred the crowds. After a nice walk in the lush mountain surroundings we arrived at the gem of a Buddhist temple. You could quite literally spend hours and hours taking in the amazing architecture, the beautiful interiors in each of the temple rooms and its beautiful back drop. We definitely spent a fair amount of time walking about undisturbed before a largish group of people
suddenly arrived and started finding their way onto our photos at which point we figured we best make our way back to the boat . It wouldn’t have been right to get on the boat and head back without creating a wishing stone tower, so mom left her mark on the banks of Chuncheonho Lake after making her wish.
Oh incidentally we opted not to make a turn into Dak Galbi street before catching the bus home since I wasn’t convinced that Red hot, burn the roof of your mouth off, garlic overpowering chicken and rice-cake stir fry would entice my visitors. Instead we opted to end off another fun and interesting day eating yet another chicken wrap with Khan our Pakistani friend in Bupyeong. (I hope Khan will reward me with a free wrap after all the “blog time he’s getting )
Sunday turned out to be a stunning day weather wise so we took a leisurely morning making our way to Insadong for a day of shopping and tea drinking. Insadong is just one of my favourite inner city spots and both mom and dad were very captivated by it. No words can describe the atmosphere
in Insadong and there is no limit to the amount of time you could spend making your way in and out of the quaint shops. We spent an entire afternoon shopping and taking in the sights and sounds and ended off our Insadong visit with a cup of delicious tea at my favourite tea shop.
Now ordinarily the impending Monday blues would have set in by around 1pm Sunday but thankfully that particular Monday we’d been invited, by my principle, to join in the school outing to the Paju Observation deck that looks out onto North Korea. The four of us AKA Mo, Dad, me and new brother, Nikon, eagerly got into the principles’ car headed toward Paju to try and get our glimpse of the North. We entered Paju city and addresses were apparently being typed into the fancy built in car GPS but it became evident after 20 minutes of driving in circles and a bunch of u-turns later that my principle clearly had no idea where she was going. Now ordinarily when you are lost you call those that have gone ahead and you ask for directions and you then make your way to the destination,
Fancy some lunch
right! Not in this case, you instead give up the search and drive your guests to the first alternative location you can find, in this case an artist’s precinct. Now I think on any other given day the precinct would have been a great alternative but as luck would have it, being Monday, all the galleries and shops were closed to the public so we aimlessly drove and walked around a ghost town of modernist buildings, posed with Dalgi and then headed to another arty spot which gave me the feeling of being at lifestyle nursery. I think we spent another 30minutes aimlessly walked around in and out of shops most of which were selling things that I’m sure they import for Mr Price home.
Now I know I sound very critical and I will admit that it was better than spending the morning at school but I was just super disappointing that yet again we were faced with bad planning and that we subsequently missed out on the observation deck, specially since we were so close that it would only have taken 1 call to clarify directions! I do suspect that there was some anxiety about aimlessly driving
around looking for the observation deck so by taking us to the precinct and lifestyle spot it was hoped that the bad planning would be offset. Oh well as mom quite rightly said at least we got out and about and did see a little of Paju city which we ordinarily wouldn’t have.
I do think the most amusing and entertaining part of the whole adventure, for us, must have been lunch. We had gone and filled ourselves up with a whole bunch of the dodgy glutinous, sugary rice cakes all of 2 hours before the “adventure” (it was breakfast time after all) and next thing you know we were being ushered into a traditional Korean restaurant for lunch after there was no more wondering around that could be done, lunch at 12pm when breakfast was at 10am what on earth. Clearly a traditional Korean meal was unavoidable and to add insult to injury, none of us were hungry at all! What do you do in such a situation….you suck it up cause I have learning, in Korea, there is no such things as thanks but no thanks you have to accept or run the risk of being very
rude. For fear of offending someone the three of us graciously took our places on the floor around the table and next thing you know we are sitting not just for any traditional Korean meal but for hangjeongshik which is the traditional meal of all traditional meals AKA the food just doesn’t stop coming. After round one we were already stuffed and at round three we were ready to call in the heavy moving equipment when the course where they finally bring the rice to the table arrived. I swear I don’t know how I made it through without causing an explosion scare so close to the boarder of North Korea man alive it was hectic. To top it off even I (adventurous eater) was struggling to get down some of the dishes on the table, particularly the fear factor looking fishy options so I have no idea how dad managed to stay so polite. 45 minutes later and three over full South Africans rolled out of the restaurant. We were ushered to the car while my principle ran off and returned armed with a whole bad of freshly baked garlic bread for us to take home! Oh my word
we could just have died! The Garlic bread smelling car managed to escort us past the base of the observation deck koppie and back to Incheon with only an apparent glimpse of the North from the road side (not so sure what they were pointing out was really North Korea but hey we’ll claim it.
Morel of the story when travelling, never ever get your hopes up about seeing or doing one thing specifically, just head out for the adventure and see what happens. I wish I had gone on this adventure with this in mind perhaps I would then have been less disappointed with the outcome. Needless to say this particular day definitely solidified dads thoughts about Korean cuisine and I don’t think he will be rushing out to sit for hangjeongshik anytime soon .
The folks spent the rest of the week doing some last minute shopping, visiting the Suwon folk village and doing a Hun river cruise. On all accounts I think their trip was definitely very interesting and for me it was just so fabulous to have them here! I was very sad to see them leave the following Friday but it also
made me aware of the fact that I only had five months left in South Korea I can’t believe how time has flown.
Incidentally I think mom is regretting not taking a Korean cooking course while here and Dad has subsequently skyped to say they are looking at introducing kimchi at breakfast, lunch and dinner at the lodge cause he misses the stuff so much haha!
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