As I have previously commented, when we set out on our journey to Korea, we really did not know what to expect or if we could find things to do to pass the time outside of school hours. As it turned out, Korea again did not fail to disappoint. It is actually an activity filled country with something for everyone. Given that we only have 12 months here, we are trying to visit new places as often as possible, really trying to ‘see’ Korea while we have the chance and we have already found some places of interest not too far from our doorstep…
Traditional Korean Folk Village, Suwon
One of the first things we decided to do was to visit a traditional Korean folk village. At the time we had yet to work out the bus system in Korean, so we took an exhausting 2 hour subway to Suwon, a bustling city south of Seoul. Here we were able to catch a 40 minute bus to the folk village (not before spoiling ourselves with waffles and ice cream…not very traditional I know). Given Korea’s obvious absence of heritage found in the major cities, the folk village was hardly
a foreign tourist destination, but certainly vibrant with Korean families bringing their children for a day out to remind them of their roots. The folk village displays traditional Korean life, from the shearing of bamboo to make household items to basic traditional games. Indeed, I was engaged by a small child in a traditional game of throwing bamboo sticks at small iron hoops (after one too many attempts, I eventually got it!).
We were also fortunate enough to see a number of entertainment shows. The first, a large number of men with long ribbon spinning from their peculiar hats, performing a traditional Korean dance routine. This is something I would recommend anyone visiting Korea to see. It’s a genuinely moving performance and one which certainly provides the on looking Koreans more of a cultural identity. The next performance? A 50+ year old Korean fellow tight-rope walking! An also performing tricks whilst up there for good measure! Finally, we saw a spectacular performance from Koreans performing stunts on horseback, whilst the horses race around a large performance area! I doubt the pictures can do it justice really…very impressive stuff!
Despite the hectic nature of the final performance, the village
was rather peaceful. Whilst the menace of the city is never far away in Korea, a bit of calm tradition proved to be a day well had.
A little closer to home, we decided to take a 20 minute subway trip to Bupeyong. This maze of a market is so large and confusing, it actually needs two subway stops to cover it all! Bupeyong station allows visitors to explore an underground labyrinth of clothing stalls, with many things being very cheap and of course, open to negotiation! Our first visit to Bupeyong however, we took the subway to Bupeyong Market subway stop (the 2nd stop). Initially, the market is not very obvious and we had to walk a couple of minutes to find it. Of course as we came ever nearer to our destination, the smell begins to hit you and you become engulfed by the local food market! Being a nation of seafood eaters, naturally fish is the strongest smell. I am a seafood enthusiast but the smell here is so pungent, it really does make you think twice! Aside from selling any fruit or vegetable you could ever need, the range of seafood you
can buy at the market is staggering, from live crabs to live octopus, from stingray to live eels, it has it all. Correction…I didn’t see a shark!
Having never bungee jumped before in my life, and being a little wary of foreign health and safety issues, I was a little hesitant to take the plunge for the first time in a distant land! However, given our school teachers workshop day was to take place on the beautiful activity filled Nami Island, and numerous teachers had already signed up to do it, there was nothing for it (really I didn’t want to look scared!). The price did nothing to ease my fears being ridiculously cheap either!
However, after surviving the jump, we were given time to explore the island. The island itself was very busy given the hot weather but we found a spot on a central field to play some games with our fellow teachers. Amy and I were given the chance to participate in a ‘chicken fight’ - a Korean game where you hop on one leg whilst holding the other with your hand. The object of the game is to knock others over
and be the last one standing! With the heat beating down, it was time to get closer to the water so Amy and I, together with some of our new friends (one of which had never been on a bicycle before had to ride tandem) rented bikes to circle the island with.
Following the return bus journey home, there was still enough energy left in us to host a farewell party for one of the Korean teachers leaving school and so six of us went to a local ‘noraebang’ (karaoke) and put new meaning to the words ‘destroying a song!’
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