Monday, May 11, 2009

Stropping Around Korea - Namwon

With the heat of the sun already proving itself a nuisance we headed off toward the center of love. Chungyang Theme Park is entirely based around the love story of the daughter of a local pub owner and the son of local gentry. The son was on the track for wealth and fame through hard study. He sat the exam for entrance into government life and took first place but returned in disguise to discover the newly placed magistrate had taken a shine to his misses who was in fact a Kaesong and because she had not returned his favour had landed in jail and was due to be killed. He of course saved the day and the girl and the day and they both lived happily ever after.

At first I didn’t think much of the theme park and was hoping for a refund on the 3,000 won I’d paid to get in but as we explored I found some places of interest despite not getting into the Folk Museum. The dioramas proved interesting.

From there we left our bags at the Information Center and headed off to Gwanghanloo and it’s ponds and gardens. It was in the midst of a schoolgirl infestation so the going was tough but walking the grounds was relaxing and the highlight was taking a brief respite within the central structure.

We slowly walked back to the Information Center and picked up our bags and walked the heavy steps back to the bus terminal. From there we headed to Jeongeup, a nice little town that we did little more than pass through. We noted the fire that had gutted a building on the entrance to the main traditional markets and I spied a lovely little path winding its way through the main shopping district on our way out of town. We caught the 171 bus to our current location, Naejangsan.

We had eats in a restaurant close to the motel of pajeon or spring onion pancake and served as one of the side dishes was pickled persimmon. The tastiest for me was the Pakimchi, or spring onion kimchi.

We’ve retired to our room to drink a few bottles of the local Dongdongju and eat a little more. We’ve made plans to head out at around 8am tomorrow morning for the long trek ahead of us up the nearby mountain range.

Stropping Around Korea - Jeonju

It was close to midday when we finally got on the road. We stayed in Jeonju overnight and with our backpacks loaded we headed to Hanok Village for a wonder. It was Children’s Day so there were plenty of kids around. We walked from our hotel with the hope of checking out the closest Tourist information center but arrived during its lunch break which fit well with us arrived at it’s glass window the night before minutes after it had closed. Sukhee had already taken note of the bus we needed to take so we waited at the bus stop across the road.

While we were there a local lady answered several questions and was able to fill in a few of our blanks. It took a while for the bus to arrive and with my time I watched a bongo truck work its way along the street with it’s two occupants using scythes attached to the end of long bamboo poles to hack away at the bindings holding the lanterns used to celebrate the recent birthday of Buddha.

We weren’t able to get a seat on the bus but it wasn’t a long way to go to the center of town. From the stop we could clearly see the direction to take as there was a sea of people heading the same way. A festival celebrating the locally made paper was in full swing with stalls set up selling secondhand goods and a special section for children’s stalls selling their old clothes and toys.

We headed into the grounds of where a series of portraits are held showing the regal faces of a number of Kings of the Chosen dynasty. The grounds were filled with excited children and their parents were inclined to give them a little more leeway today, running on the other side of roped off areas and over the top of stone memorials.

After exiting the walled off section we went deeper into Hanok Village and marveled at the many beautiful private homes built in the old style. With an eye always on our finances we didn’t dally in front of the many craft stalls selling locally made products such as turned wood and clay goods. It was close to two in the afternoon when our bellies were starting to call louder then the local kids.

We decided to find a place to eat and at first look around the grounds of a one hundred year old church to see if anything took our fancy. There was a large food hall of sorts set up but the prices were not good for the wilted lettuce and small portions. I went into the church for a closer look while Sukhee waited close to a few restaurants.

We didn’t take long to settle on a nearby restaurant and had a filling meal of the local specialty, Bibbimbop. After lunch and right before hoping on another bus we went around the only remaining gate in Jeonju of the once complete fortifications. Surprising we were able to walk right up and through the gates themselves to the small enclosed area on the other side.

From there we caught a bus, number 79 that would take us on to the grounds of a nearby temple, Geumsansa. The temple was a lot different from others we’d seen as the buildings were very spread out and didn’t seem to be in any formation. As we walked I called Mark and we talked for a good while. The central attraction of this temple is the three story high building housing extremely large cast Buddha’s. We’d left our bags in the Tourist Center at the entrance to the temple and had to hurry back before they closed at 6pm. The Vietnamese woman working there was extremely helpful and her English was close to native.

We took the bus all the way back to the Intercity bus terminal to wait the few minutes for a bus to Namwon. In Namwon, a relatively small town was a festival celebrating love or rather a very old love story between a few locals. In the guide book it proclaimed the festival to be in full swing for another few days so after getting a room and having dinner in a nearby restaurant we didn’t feel inclined to wander towards the festivities.