If the weather’s nice on my one day off my friends and I like to catch a random bus and go exploring. We had heard rumors of a chair lift to the top of a nearby mountain. We got there to find a hideous hotel next to Korea’s worst water park. At the top of the mountain there was a small restaurant and some hiking trails and a lot of abandoned cool shit and some damn good pajeon and makeoli.
Chaeseokgang cliffs on the southern coast were a neat day trip. We got there at low tide so we were able to walk along the whole rocky outcropping. It was a national holiday so a ton of people were there, bit it was fun none the less. It would probably be a great place for a rainy, misty day of solo exploring.
Thursday we took a day trip to Boseong to see the tea. It was a beautiful place with rolling hillsides and neat rows of tea swirling across the landscape. The park wasn’t too busy and it was rather peaceful and serene. The weather was perfect and despite my endless spring flu I managed to make it to the top do the mountain to see all there was to be seen. You could make out the hazy blue of the ocean in the distance, the hanok village and a construction site. Win some, lose some.
Everything was a perfect green and there’s. Nice hike around the mountain to boot. I had some green tea icecream at the cafe near the entrance and got my mommy some chocolates. It was a nice place to spend an afternoon.
I decided to post my instax mini pictures because they were the best ones I took.
Seokbulsa Temple Seokbulsa- stone Buddha temple- is a little known gem in the mountains near Busan. There’s a road that leads up to it for those unwilling or unable to hike up the mountain, but we elected to take the scenic route. It started with an early morning cable car up the side of the mountain. The weather is still cool and the air was hazy. From there we hiked up to the mountain fortress walls and down to a small mountain village where they were just gearing up for the large parties of hikers who make their way down the mountain to get wasted and eat mountain cuisine. Koreans seem to treat hiking like a giant party and that’s totally cool. I’m out of shape with a bum ankle but the hike wasn’t so terrible. The mountain side is beautiful and all the trees have their baby green leaves and several were still flowering. The last stretch to the temple is not for the faint, but if that old lady managed it in heels then I can do it. It was totally worth it. The temple is wonderful. Apparently it’s the only one like it in Korea. For a few moments we were even truly alone and that’s the first time that’s ever happened to me at a temple in Korea. I took a lot of pictures, sure, but just sitting there experiencing it was best part. If you find yourself in Busan this is definitely worth the time and effort.
Cherry blossoms in Korea.
I went to a cherry blossom festival. The drive there was beautiful as the bus wound down tree lined roads weaving through the mountains and overlooking the river. It reminded me of drives through (the republic of) Georgia. We missed the cherry blossom’s peak by a few days and a sudden front had stripped them a bit of flowers but the weather was beautiful and I got to eat some local cuisine. Nature is great.
On a chilly weekend last May we decided to go on an adventure with our three-day weekend. After waiting in line for a bus for over three hours we realized our first adventure was poorly planned and would more than likely be a big pain in the ass. We went home and regrouped. Early the next morning we searched out a bus to the eastern city of Samcheok. Were were soon on our way to the coastal city. Our main goal was to get to the renowned penis sculpture park: Haesindang Park.
It was misty and cool that day. I was feeling terribly sick that day but got by on a steady diet of honey flavored Halls. The park was all but empty until a bus of middle aged men and women arrived. The walked around giggling and posing with the statues so I suddenly didn’t feel like such a 5 year old.
The park is very nice and was wonderful to stroll around in. It had it’s own merits but the 3 meter tall penis statues was definitely a plus. There’s a folk museum inside the park and is worth a visit if only for the simulated speed boat ride in the middle of the museum. It rumbles and moves around like a real boat. Woo! There’s a small aquarium and an exhibit dedicated to the women who diver for octopus off Jeju island too.
The legend surround the park is a little sad. A woman, set to marry her love in only a short time, was washed off a rock while gathering seaweed. Her lover was not able to save her because a sudden storm. Soon after fish stopped coming to the village. Through some interesting logic they assumed she was angry ‘cause the young lady had never been laid. Fair enough. So they erected (heh) some statues to placate her and fish started returning to the village.
Up until a few years ago there were penis carving competitions but the practice was shut down by religious groups. Boo.
Some friends and I decided we would like to spend one of our first nice Sundays and go on a picnic. We decided on Anseong since it was a central location and a few people said they had already hiked up the mountain and that it was nice. We left early in the afternoon, met in Anseong, descended on a kimbop nara and Seven 11 for snacks and then we were off.
It was a very short hike through the city and up the mountain. The first part was the hardest. It was a steep cobbled slope and I’m lazy so I fell behind first thing. Halfway up the mountain is a nice little Buddhist temple. We stopped and admired it for a few moments, listened to the calming chimes then hiked the short way up the rest of the mountain.
Bibong mountain is apparently famous for it’s hot springs. We didn’t try those out, but there is a lovely pavilion at the very top. We sat there in the late afternoon sun and ate our picnic lunch, drank our picnic beer then, once it got chilly we skipped back down the mountain and headed for some bar food.
Last month sometime we spent a Sunday afternoon at a cat cafe in Pyeongtaek. It was a cutely designed cafe; lots of cat trees and cute beds. They had a decent selection of coffee and teas. There were lots of board games and things to do to while away your afternoon while the cats flee from you in terror.
I won’t even try to explain where this place is because it’s not worth going to it. When we walked in it was packed full of teenage girls. The cats were all hunkered in the dark recesses of cat trees, beds, or up high on shelves. Their ears were back, the tails twitching as each one endured a barrage of teenage girls.
I guess the cats were as good-natured as they could be about it, but as a lifelong cat owner I was a little miffed to see the cats in such a state. The one pictured was terrified of people. Kids would chase him around with toys and he would flee into the tiny hole where they most definitely kept the litter box. (The smell was a bit of an issue as well.)
Eventually the gaggle of girls cleared out and the cats had some breathing room. The cafe girls rounded up the toys and piled them on top of the cat who insisted on sleeping in the toy box. One cat had some energy to play, but the rest were quite content to relax now that they had some quiet.
We made peace with the terrified stumpy one and he hung out at our feet, occasionally swiping at a toy or just hanging out. He even let me pet him. One of the girls who worked at the cafe told me that he was afraid of people, but she didn’t know why. It made me wonder if she’d ever spent much time around cats.
All in all, I’d only ever go here again if I were desperate for some fuzzy attention, but that’s pretty much why I went in the first place.
Jeongdongjin was a small city down the road from Gangneung. We took a 15 minute seaside train and arrived at the drama-famous train station. It was very cold and the wind was biting. We walked down the beach to the giant hourglass. The hourglass is a popular destination for New Years. I didn’t take a picture of it ‘cause I thought it was kind of ugly, but it seemed like a cool bit of machinery none the less. We were going to wander through town back to the train station, but a helpful guy stopped and told us to hop in. He talked with us for a bit and we found out that he worked for a military weapons company and he was a two star general. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. My “Oh cool!” was kind of lame. Haha. I’m awkward at conversation anyway. He drove us to the train station and even gave us a present: a couple of plush towels with his company’s info embroidered on them and a business card with an open invitation to come visit and talk any time.
Once back at the train station we were unsure of what to do. We had only gotten to town a short while ago and we wanted to see the captured North Korean submarine. We got coffee at this excellent and cozy cafe called Sun cafe then took a taxi to the Gangneung Unification Park to see the captured North Korean sub and a decommissioned battle ship. I’d actually toured the inside of the USS Alabama in Mississippi so the battle ship was kind of a fun side quest. The real gem was the terrifying and tiny sub. Tiny might be the wrong word, but I was much too big for the inside with my backpack and generously offered hardhat. There was computers that had been melted to destroy their evidence and word had it that up to 30 people were crammed onto the sub at one time. I can not imagine that. I was relieved to finally climb out of it. We toured the battleship after that. Someone had thoughtfully put a Titanic Jack and Rose cardboard cutout photo-opt on the front of the boat. It was the kind you could stick your head through. It was nice touch. We headed to the bus stop just in time. A helpful lady that knew some English helped us decipher the bus schedule and a man they were with gave us some homemade kimbap. We made it back to Gangneung with a ton of time to spare so we got some soup then ambled over to the bus station. The whole weekend was very relaxing and inexpensive. It was a great place to unwind.
Gangneung was a pleasant town. It’s near the coast of the East Sea and we had heard it had a good reputation for seafood. Seoul’s fun but I needed a weekend that was calm and slow-paced. My husband and I took a bus across the country to the coast, it took about four hours. We got a room at a cute motel then roamed the city. Our first step was to grab the bus downtown. We had a bus number and we were just going to ride around and look at the town but it was the first time we’d had a helpful bus driver in all of Korea and he was very put out that we couldn’t tell him where we wanted to go. We tried to tell him that we were just riding the bus to have a look around but he was insistent that we tell him where we needed to go. We hopped off as soon as we saw a nice sight-seey thing much to our bus driver’s annoyance. Sorry, dude, we generally have no idea what we’re doing but thank you for the help you offered. We wandered into downtown and looked around then we found the market. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever seen dried manta-ray. I see dried squid and other fishes all the time but this was something new and fun. It looked like alien carcasses drying in the street. We ate dinner at a nice well-being (Korea’s term for health or organic food) sushi place then headed back home to sleep for an early start the next day.
We stayed at a motel named Equus in Gangneun. The room was very nice and comfortable. Clean and classy for such a cheap place to stay- it was only around 50,000원 a night. I got so excited by the chance to take a bath that I totally forgot to photograph the room. The tub could fit two people (more for me!) and was sparkly gold and right as you got off the elevator was a machine to make your evening “exciting”. I did not partake in the cheap goods but it was nice to know I had the option right down the hallway.
One evening in fall we were wandering around Dongdaemun looking for a Russian restaurant. We never found it and it started raining and No one had an umbrella. I ducked under an awning to get warm and turned around and almost peed myself because I thought some creeper was standing behind me, but no. It was just him- the hair dresser of Death.