5:37 AM Jmo 1 Comments

It's amazing what you can do in two days. Absolutely ridiculously amazing.

Friday night I came home from school and, even though I had to wake up early the next morning, refused to waste a Friday night being old and responsible. So, I texted my friend Tony asking if he wanted to go grab dinner. Me, Tony, and another friend of ours made our way to this Korean-French fusion restaurant. If I've failed to mention, Korea is just as interested in French culture as they are American. There are 'boulongerieses' everywhere. Anyhoo, the food was really good and came with an all you can eat salad bar that wasn't much of a salad bar at all. But rather a station where you could make noodle soup and fill up a heaping plate of these carmel-glazed sweet potato fries. Yes. Delicious. -After dinner we grabbed some drinks and went back to Tony's place to play Korean jax and GoStop with others. Just me and the "bros". Six to be exact. -I've assimilated into their culture. They've taken me as one of their own. I'll report back from the inside. Over and out. haha

So that night ended much later than originally intended. I had to run home, finish packing, get into bed and attempt to fall asleep before an even more obnoxious hour. I probably went to sleep around 2am and had to get up at 4:30-4:45 to meet back at Tony's to catch a cab at 5:45am to make a 6:20am train. Madness.
So we get to the train station and I pick up my reserved ticket that I bought separate from Tony and Shane. They reserved theirs together..but we're having problems at the ticket counter. The lady wouldn't give them their tickets because Shane didn't have his confirmation or passport number! Eeek! But after what seemed like an eternity, a phone call was made and we finagled a way to get the tickets -with 10 minutes to spare!
The train ride was short and sweet. The KTX turned what would've been a 3.5 hour bus ride into an hour long blink of an eye.

We got off the train and the air was quite cold and windy. We wandered about the train station and its grounds for some time trying to figure out where we should head next. Even with Shane speaking Korean it was hard to find our next desination. He would stick his head in a bus, ask a question, and pop back out saying: "I have no idea what he was saying!" Apparently, there is a thick accent in Gyeongu. I'm assuming it'd be like us heading into the deep south -the bayous of Louisiana. But we made it onto a bus and headed to the area where our hostel was.
Gyeongu is definitely more of what I pictured Korea being like.  It seemed more...foreign to me. Older times and traditions were on display more prevalently than compared to Daejeon where the new and up and coming is highlighted. I loved it. I'm glad I live in Daejeon, but places like Gyeongu are just too good to pass up.
We located our hostel but couldn't check in until later so we wandered to go find food. Right down the street was a traditional open air market and all three of us jumped at the chance to walk through it and take some culinary chances. We decided to pop into of sorts. It was more of a large open room with cooking stations manned by adjamas. Yes! Perfect for an early morning breakfast. We walked in and were immediately stared at and motioned to come over and sit at various stations. We chose, er well...was forced to sit at this one station next to a group of men eating, drinking, and carrying on in the corner. It was 8am. Yep, the soju was a-flowing. Our adjama was very very sweet and was seemed so proud and happy that we were at our table. She seemed very interested in us too so Tony and I tried to converse as best as we could -with Shane as help. She made us a soup. The contents of said soup is still up for debate. But there was definitely a lot of skin and cartilage. It wasn't bad but I downed the rice and went for the sides. I kept asking Shane: "You're sure this isn't dog right? You're sure this isn't dog...?" with a smile on face as to not offend our new friend. He assured me it wasn't. We ordered some mahkoli and toasted to Gyeongu -which made our new friend even more pleased. Mahkoli in the morning. Hey, we had to compete with the locals in the corner...

After by far the most unique breakfast I've had (the only thing comparable may be the "cowboy" breakfast I had in Undara: the Australian outback) it was off to Bulguska Temple. The temple was beautiful and the landscape just as much. I think fall is an amazing time to do historical travelling in Korea. The colors highlight the already cinematic scenes and make your surroundings seems even more surreal. Watching Buddhist monks practice rituals with cool fresh fall air in your hair against a backdrop of orange and yellow is almost sensory overload. My mind still can not wrap around the fact that this is my life.
There was a small art gallery/gift shop at the could I not walk away with something? I didn't want to keep my guys waiting so I quickly chose a delicate rice paper painting of a branch with red buds. There is an inscription that translates to: "I'm glad to have met you." -Which I've found fitting in oh so many ways.
After Bulguska we followed a hiking trail up to the Seokoram grotto. Our bodies were dying but our minds knew we could sleep later. Who cares about sleep when you have the chance to hike up a mountain to an ancient grotto housing a two-story Buddah? Yeah. Exactly. When we reached the grotto there was a canopy of wish lanterns and a fountain to drink temple water. The grotto itself was unbelievable. Tony, Shane, and I stood there in awe and in silence for a matter of minutes -quite the feat for us. Unfortunately you couldn't take photos, but please take a look here:
Outside of the Seokuram grotto.
We left the grotto and decided to walk the opposite way down the mountain -attempting to reach this town we passed up on the way. Tony thought it would be a good idea to follow this road. Ha. We started walking, and walking, and walking...then we began to realize that...hey, this is the quietest we've heard Korea being. We paused for a moment on the side of the road and looked at each other. It was silent. The three of us laughed out of nervousness and decided to stop and hopefully flag down a car. We walked a little further and made it to a clearing where this family set up a roadside food stand. I pulled some oranges out of my bag to share and we posted up to wait for a ride. Cab after cab wizzed by up the mountain transporting hikers and finally one stopped on it's way back down. The cab driver was laughing at us and Shane said it was because the road we were walking on didn't let out for another 9km -appx. 5 miles. Yep! Adventure awaits!
The cab driver took us down the mountain at a...Korean pace. Tony and I almost lost our mahkoli if you know what I mean. But we made it to the base of the mountain and over to a village near the museum district. We asked him to drop us off at a good restaurant. We ate lunch at a traditional Korean restaurant and dined on bulgogi ssallamsa (I believe that's what it was called...I'm probably wrong.) But it was a dish comprised of a main dish and 22 different sides that you could choose from to wrap up in lettuce. Two soups too! It was great just to sit down and dive in. The meal was expensive -but most of the side dishes claimed to be only served in the Gyeongu reigon. Worth it. Also! The door to the restaurant was open to the street and every 5-10 minutes or so a horse-drawn carriage would pass by blasting Gangnam Style. You can't escape it. Even in the historical region of Gyeongu. Korea is the pinnacle of old meets new.
We then walked across the street to the Gyreim forest and tombs. Absolutely stunning and surreal. The twisting forms of the trees beginning to be silhouetted by the setting sun was beautiful.  An artists dream. And the tombs in the landscape looks like perfect little hills fit for hobbits or...Teletubies. Yep. I went there. They were so kept and perfect they seemed cartoon like.
Like I said, the sun was well on it's way to setting but it wasn't quite there yet. So we decided to walk away from the touristy area to watch the sunset. We walked past a river and a grouping of houses with traditional roofing and dogs tied up to cages that the ASPCA back home would have a problem with. The sunset was fantastic. The best I've seen here yet (Sunset, not sunrise. My Ullengdo still takes the cake on that one.) We watched the sun dip behind the mountains as cars wizzed past and in between on a mountain road. It was interesting to think that those cars see this every day and maybe don't even think twice. Traveling broadens the mind and also makes you think back to the things that you may have taken for granted at home.
After the sunset we made our way to Anapji pond. We were told to go here at night and we were sure glad we did. It was breath-taking. At the pond were are series of pagodas that house bits of archaeological significance that were lit strategically. The reflection of the pagodas in the water was the best sight of all. The water was calm and reflected like glass. I've never seen detail in water like this before. But one of the best things about walking from place to place was the conversation. Constant laughter! Love these guys...
Anapji pond.
Shane unfortunately had to cut his trip short and head home, so Tony and I were left to our own devices. We made our way back to the hostel to drop off our things and check in. We were exhausted. But! Once again, we could not waste a weekend night. So we ended up going back to the market to grab some kimchi dumplings and song peyong and made our way to a local convenience store to hang out and drink. You can do that here. We stayed until "time's up!" haha
After our "time was up" we headed back to the hostel to meet and hang out with our hostel mates. The owners girlfriend, a Canadian, was super cool and friendly. She's been here for three years teaching at a university and claims that the ex-pat life was like prison. You can rehabilitate and re acclimate to society back home or you can re offend. She's "re offended" twice. I understand the anecdote, but I'm not sure I agree with her word choices! haha We also met a rather obnoxious guy that fits into the category of: No Please. Don't Represent The United States. *rolls eyes*

Sunday morning my internal traveler's alarm clock went off at 7:30am. My body knows that even though it's tired my mind would never forgive itself for missing out on anything. Thankfully Tony's mind works the same way. So we were up and ready by 8. At hostels breakfast is included and you cook your own. So Tony and I made our ways upstairs to the kitchen and he made us eggs, toast, and coffee. We ate at a little table next to a guitar and dried flowers. Hanging all over the walls were artistically taken black and white photos of travel destinations and messages left from previous hostel-stayers. Everything from Spanish to Thai could be read across these walls. Loved it.
After breakfast Tony and I decided to explore the rooftop patio. I wish I had my camera. This was the kind of foreign landscape I had in mind. The roof was full of miscellaneous items: clothes, pots, liquor bottles from parties past. And in the distance was the patina of an old city bordered by mountains. And! To our surprise a marathon was running by in the streets. We watched, cheered people on, and called out celebrities a-la Dawn of the Dead. "Burt Reynolds!"

After attempting to pick a bus without the help of our Korean speaking friend, we gave up and decided to wander and walk the streets to see what we could find. We stumbled upon yet another market, but this one was larger and housed more...unique items. There were a couple stalls that displayed drying octopus. They were absolutely stunning. I'm sure the women working the stalls (and probably even Tony!) thought I was strange for how intently I was looking at them. The bodies hung like works of grotesque art. The limbs seemed incredibly dense and heavy. I took a bunch of reference photos. An octopus drawing will soon be in the works. Outside of the market were street vendors as well and one vendor had....the cutest puppy ever! He was this little spunky guy that I just wanted to shove in my backpack and steal. If I was walking the streets with a new paycheck...that might've just happened. I need to constantly be talked out of getting a dog. Help me. I need an intervention.
Tony and I then walked about following historical signs to find the tomb of a King. We passed the river and walked a couple km until we reached the tomb. It was set back into this clearing up a hill an there were hiking trails winding about from it's center. So, naturally being the adventurers that we are, we followed one. We ended up walking and talking not paying attention to where we were going and got a little lost. Our trail ended at a town that was definitely not in any tourist guide book. But we were hungry and ended up grabbing some amazing dapookie for lunch. $7 for lunch for two. Can't beat it.
We hiked back and took a bus out to a traditional village on the outskirts of town but had to turn directly around because we didn't have time. We needed to check out and head to the bus station. We grabbed some dinner from the market and ate at the station.

The bus ride back was lovely. Three hours, but nice. We sat in the very back and had four seats to ourselves. We leaned back and spent our time telling ghost stories and other things to pass the hours. But once our bus stopped my mind had had it. Finally my body radioed into my brain to let it know it had enough. I was running on maybe a third of my normal weekly sleep and I was ready to be home. Coming back to Daejeon was a bit of a shock. For some reason the palette cleansing of Gyeongu really slapped Daejeon in my face upon arrival. I was tired and crabby and wasn't taking kindly to all the stares at the bus stop. One lady even laughed upon seeing me and I may have said something to her that thankfully she didn't understand. Ohh, the pros of speaking a foreign language...haha

Speaking of tired...

1 comment:

  1. sounds awesome!!!
    haha well you know who NOT to talk to, if you want to be talked out of a puppy :)


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