Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A couple of buses, an impressive mountain and a teapot full of Makgeolli

Seeing as I’ve been so bad at updating my blog, I’m going to back date it a bit…not too much, just a little bit about our Christmas holidays.

On Wednesday (28th of December) we headed for a place called Danyang, which is north east of where we are.  First problem-where do we get a bus from? Answer-Ring Brian! (Brian is the husband of the woman who runs the Hagwon we work in and he’s our self-proclaimed guardian angel!) He told us to ring him back when we were in a taxi and he’d give the driver directions! So, that’s what we did. Too easy! 

Got to the bus station, a really new looking modern terminus (complete with an 'Irish Potato Cafe'!) in the middle of a particularly run down looking area and attempted to buy a ticket.  We're just about at the stage now where we can recognise places written in Hangul but speaking is still a non event. Got the message across we wanted to go to Danyang, but somehow managed to get a non-direct bus and only bought the ticket for the first leg which was fine, except that we had to go through the whole buying process again at the next station!  All part of the fun though!

Four hours later we got to Danyang, which was a much bigger town than we’d expected.  I thought it was going to be more of a village but it was actually pretty big.  It's on a river though which makes it really nice.  The river was maybe 300metres across and frozen totally solid.  It looked beautiful.  Found somewhere to stay...hostels and the likes aren’t really a big thing here, there's no real budget tourist industry but you can get motels pretty cheaply.  They're called ‘love motels’, and can be a bit seedy but are generally clean and the rooms tend to be fairly big.  Under-floor heating, en-suite bathroom, towels, internet, water cooler etc...for about €20 a night!  So found ourselves a love motel and went for an explore.  But it was FREEZING we ended up just diving into a coffee shop, ordering hot chocolates, throwing blankets over ourselves and playing cards until it was time to go for dinner!  

It was the first time we’d been out of Daejeon since we’d arrived and we'd forgotten how hard finding restaurants can be...we generally eat in a few places we know of and we have a bit of a handle on the menu or the staff help us out but now, in this new town, where there’s even less English than in Daejeon, we were a bit stuck! Back to good aul point and shoot! We went for the safe option and managed to ask for dishes we know we like which they had but it was good food all the same, nice and cheap, with a free coffee thrown in afterwards, and all for about €8! Happy days!

The next day we went to a Korean Buddist temple complex, called Guin-sa, about half an hour away.  It was so impressive...for any of you that've seen Kung Fu Panda...that’s exactly what it was like! If you imagine a massive temple complex, all colourful, with big dragons everywhere, and huge eaves, all tucked it to the side of a mountain and joined together by sky walks...that’s it!

The next day we got a bus to Darian, about 15mins further up the mountains to the entrance to Sobeaksan National Park, with the intention of going for a bit of a hike but by the time we got there we didn’t have time so we just wandered around as long as we could (it was baltic, the coldest we've experienced yet), then ordered a big pot of some sort of tasty goodness and a teapot of makeolli (unstrained rice wine).  We got up early the next day to climb Birobong Mountain, all 1429m of it!  It wasn’t like doing a hike at home, there were no ups and downs,just straight up to the peak, then straight down!  It was a 14km round trip but it was such an amazing walk, up through forest until we got out the otherside of it.  The view was like some sort of oriental painting, all blue/grey mountain peaks in the distance with whispy clouds hanging in between the peaks and a piercing blue sky.  Stunning but far too cold to hang around and admire.  The summit was really exposed (as summits generally are!), we'd walked along a ridge for about 700 metres to get to it so it was really windy and bitingly cold.  Touched the marker, took a quick photo and legged it! 

 The Start of the Walk

The ground was snow covered for the most part so we thought going down-hill would be really slow and slippy but our shoes were up to it and we bombed it.  All the korean folk we passed walking the mountain had proper ice grips on their shoes and walking poles...bfff...out of my way you over dressed eejits, we're grand in our runners!!

Got back about 5 hours later, had another pot of tasty goodness, a couple of new-years-eve celebratory beers and hit the hay well before the new year rang in!!  Back to Daejeon the next day, and then back to work on Monday!

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