Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Chuseok Weekend

The past 3 days has been the Korean public holiday Chuseok here in Sachang-Ri. Well, all over Korea really, it is a time when Korean families visit their ancestral home towns and share traditional food and rice wines with their families. How lovely. Lovely for me, as it has meant I got five days off of school. Which has been great!

On Friday night we took it pretty easy (well some of us did) we had a barbeque on the roof of our apartment building and played some drinking games, a fun way to start the weekend. I was back in my apartment by eleven and settled down for an early night.

Saturday it was time to go to Seoul for the weekend. We left at about midday stopping at the bakery for lunch (they do these amazing hot dog baguettes, I’ve been living off of them). We went to the bus station and boarded the 12:30 bus to Seoul. The bus ride is about 2 hours, the first hour through sparse, windy mountain roads and the second half along a highway which leads directly into East Seoul. Off the bus and a bottle of Aloe Vera juice later we’re on the subway.

Seoul subway, much like Seoul is huge, chaotic and busy, on top of that its one of the most efficient subway systems in the world, you can get everywhere in the city and on the outskirts within a relatively quick space of time. We went to the Myeong district first for a little shopping and a coffee. They have some crazy ass shops in Korea and we mistakenly walked into a nun ran Christian bookshop. Oops. After a time we hit up Seoul Station to meet some of Amanda’s friends from Busan.

We all jumped in a taxi and headed for Hyongdae. Now, let me tell you about Hyongdae. Hyongdae is the Western district of Seoul, it’s a metropolis of Western fast food restaurants, bars, and night clubs. It’s not all that great if I’m being honest. For those who want to come to Korea but pretty much be back in their home country, surrounded by other people from your home country, this place is great. And also certainly a relief when you do for a short stint want to get out of the way of Koreans. However, it’s not the most beautiful part of the city and it’s basically designed for its night life. All well and good only I wasn’t really feeling that great. After checking into a love motel (cheap motels that have a reputation for being seedy but are great if you want cheap accommodation and haven’t booked in advance) we went out for drinks, I was back and in bed by about 2am after only 2 beers, everyone else stayed up till past 6am. Welcome to Hongdae, not really my style, but it was worth experiencing.

As we had an early night we were up earlier than a lot of the other folks who stayed up till the early hours and we headed out to Itaewon. Another western area of Seoul, but in this particular area there is a fabled English bookstore which is fantastic, we spent about an hour traipsing around the bookstore in search of bargains. We also had our first Korean McDonalds, which cost about £1.50 for a meal deal. Amazing!

We left Seoul that afternoon and were back in Chuncheon by about 4:30. Then we got the bus back from Chuncheon after a short stopover in Emart. Home by 7. Glad to be back in the countryside, I guess I wasn’t in a city mood this weekend and my upset stomach didn’t exactly help matters. The next day I was feeling great though.

Nathaniel knocked my door at about 12:00 and we went to get some Kimbop. Kimbop was even cheaper at about 75p each we got a selection of Kimbop rolls. Kimbop is essentially Korean sushi made with pork instead of fish and with radish and a few other choice ingredients. Its tasty, its cheap, its great! After filling up on this we decided to hike a mountain that’s preferably close to where we live and looked modest enough that it wouldn’t beat us into the ground. It was a rather challenging climb after all as there are no real trails up the mountain. We ended up climbing up an old landslide, I was nervous that every time I put my hand around a rock a pit viper would jump out the other side, this didn’t happen. It was actually a really fun climb up through the rocks. We arrived at the peak about an hour later. There’s a helipad on top of this one. We could hear a military training ground below us and on the way back we bumped into an old Korean military bunker. Scary stuff. Oh, how did we get down? We climbed down an even more dangerous and treacherous landslide and nearly fell into the river. What of it?

The day after, we went to Gugok falls, they are truly beautiful waterfalls just outside of Chuncheon and in the winter when the waterfall freezes and turns to ice, daredevil climbers take to this waterfall and climb up it. Sounds fun huh? Fun and insane. I’ll give that a miss but might pop back in the winter to see what all the fuss is about, just watching people climb that thing will be fun enough.

Today I’ve been cleaning the apartment, did some grocery shopping and caught up on some lesson planning for the week. Back to school tomorrow folks for my 9am grade 2 monsters. I love them really.

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