Sunday, January 25, 2009

new year's journey to the south point of korea

special guest writer: hiuyan
[photo comments added by me, peter]

peter and I went on a trip to Haenam (literally means “ocean-south” – southern coast of Korea) over the new year :)

But let me start with what we did on New Year ’s Eve~
We were invited to peter’s co-worker, dongun’s place. Since peter and dongun both had to work that evening, I went to dongun’s place to meet his fiancé, Youngmin, while they’re at work. We went to a supermarket and got some ingredients for making mandu (steamed dumpling, sort of) and japchae (sweet potato noodles stir-fried with… stuff – which I recalled attempting to make once for peter when we’re in hawaii, but I made it too greasy… :p). Youngmin and her housemate, Hoon, told me that if I could make pretty mandus, I would have pretty daughters :) So, after Youngmin was done with making the filling for the mandus, I started to make up some “mandu-making-strategies” for my future daughters’ sakes. But I have to admit that I ended up making up some pretty… strange looking mandus (peter ate the strangest one that looked like a dog poop…). That’s okay, my daughters don’t have to look pretty as long as they have beautiful hearts :) I convinced myself… peter, dongun and one of the secretaries at their hagwon finally arrived right after we were done making all the mandus and Youngmin made the japchae. After eating all the good food, and after counting down (now I’m 24, instead of 22, in Korean age – my mom counts age almost the same way too, except that she uses the Chinese New Year. Birthdays don’t count, and the other extra year of age is the year when I was still in her tummy…), that’s when the fun starts! go-stop! :D Even though peter and I were the ones who lost in the end (I managed to feel like winning at first but I lost in the end, but peter was just losing the whole time, except the practice round~ haha~), we had lots of fun playing that anyway :D It was now almost 4am… peter and I took a nap before going to the bus station at 6am to get our bus tickets to Haenam. Then we went back to peter’s apartment to take a longer nap before hopping on the bus at 2:40pm to Haenam.

[ginny and me on the bus to mokpo - 목포 - transfer point on the way to 해남 - haenam]

8:30pm, New Year’s evening, we’re exhausted from the bus ride and everything was closed around the Haenam bus station, except one 24 –hour jjimjilbang :D Hooray! We’re very much in need of that. Very quickly we checked in and very quickly we went into the bathing rooms separately.
It was weird to me, at first. I’ve been to hot springs and bathing places like that before, but trips to hot springs and bathing places have usually been with my female friends. I’ve never gone to the bathing area by myself. It felt really different this time. But as I started to focus on the rhythm of my own breaths in the hot water, letting myself being indulged into this steamy atmosphere, I found the invisible wings of mine spreading out, very happily :) exhilarating – that’s the word.
After being in the hot water for a while, I jumped into the cold water to refresh myself before going into the sauna room (my favorite part~ heehee~). I like switching back and forth between the “dry sauna” and the “moist sauna”. It’s good to be alive~
I met up with peter, after about an hour of bathing, at the common area while he apparently made a new friend from the smoking room. So we “chatted” (language difficulty…) for a little while with him and other people in this high temperature room where they stayed. By the time we left the room, I was ready for another bath, but I decided to wait until the next morning :) Then peter and I played some cribbage while drinking some red wine that we had been able to sneak in with~ heehee~ After that, we were ready for “bed” – floor, where everyone was sleeping on.[at the jjimjilbang][this one was smaller than usual ones, but this is the general scene - some jjimjilbangs are HUGE]

The next morning, we both got up feeling a bit tired. But we felt a lot better after taking another bath :) Then we left the jjimjilbang and started to look for a place for breakfast. But it was too early for things to be opened. So we walked and walked and finally, we found this bakery shop, where we ordered some pastry and drinks. Hmm… nothing beats having a cup of hot tea in a cold morning, and being with my beloved one makes it even more enjoyable and memorable… :)[paris baggette breakfast][walking around haenam][this stack of pet canaries and bunny rabbits was just in the middle of the sidewalk with no apparent owner - they were quite cute][while visiting the store, we caught this guy using the produce isle mirror to shave with his electric razor - no doubt he is the manager or something; i cant imagine a customer carrying around a razor in their pocket just looking for a place to use it - this kind of 'resourcefulness' is sometimes a common sight in korea - more than once ive seen mothers changing their kid's diaper on the SUBWAY! gross.]

Then we took out the map of Haenam and decided to go to a temple which was called Daeheung.

It took us about half an hour to get to the area where the temples were. It’s windy and cold here, so we decided to start with searching for the hostel that we had seen on the map. We knew that it was pretty close to the cable car facility building, so we aimed for it first – it was on a slope, and the hostel was even farther up on the top of that slope![our haunted hostel]

And once we entered the hostel, we’re both shocked by how empty it was! It was like a scene where they shoot a detective movie that goes like “someone’s dead in this mansion and everyone has to stay because one of us is the murderer!” Seriously, no one was even at the front desk when we arrived. But a middle-aged Korean man came out from the room behind the front desk after we had shouted. Finally we got a nice comfy room :) Then we put our stuff down and got ready to go to the temple~ as soon as we walked out of our room, we saw a bird at a closed window trying to get out. He couldn’t find his way back and was just hoping to fly out from the windows. So, peter decided to open the window for him. But once he stepped closer to the bird, the bird escaped to the other closed window at the opposite direction. Then we decided to open one window and “scare” him to fly to that one window. It took us a while, but he finally freely flew out~ we felt really happy about it afterwards :) heehee~~

On the way to the temples, I recall having a nice conversation about what I did right before going to college in Hawaii, while passing through a pretty hiking trail with a couple of rope bridges J we like rope bridges, especially peter. He had so much fun trying to scare me by walking on them with heavy steps while I was right behind him!

[on the rope bridge][ginny falls down on the rope bridge hahaha]

We finally got to the temples. But immediately, we both felt like there’s something that didn’t feel quite right. Peter said it first, “I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but temples seem a lot less attractive when there are too many tourists walking around and taking pictures.” He was obviously looking very uncomfortable. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel that uncomfortable. Not that I got comfortable with this kind of atmosphere (never can I). Instead, I found a resolution when I was younger – I used to go to some touristy temples with my parents on our trips to the mainland China with those tour companies. Since the tour companies liked to go to touristy places, the temples where they took us to were usually full of tourists. So I found a way to find my peace of mind while my parents were listening to the tour guides talking about the temples – I would sit at a corner, watch people going back and forth, and feel the flow of time with my own pace – I said that to peter, and we decided to sit at a corner. It worked a little for him, I guess :)

[many, many people]

Honestly, I don’t recall much of the rest of our temple visiting. Because peter and I had an argument and I was sinking too much into my own deep thoughts. It feels weird sometimes how mood changes from one conversation to another. Not necessarily bad, but just that expectations have to be thrown away for good reasons. And that could be quite painful for a short while.

[hiuyan standing alone during our fight]

[beautiful turquoise korean architecture - this building complex was turned into a museum]
[please remove your shoes]
[we weren't really sure who this old guy was - but he's pretty studly regardless]
[i liked this watercolor in the museum]
[this building is a buddhist shrine]
[there are literally thousands of buddhas in here - so buy bowing once, you are actually racking up huge penance bonuses!]
[i had to admit, i felt a little nervous taking pictures under the gaze of these fearsome guardians...]
[some nature shots on the way back]

With our tired bodies, we stopped by a restaurant and had a seafood hot pot :D nice and warm~~~ then we got some Korean wine (I forgot its name) from the restaurant and hiked back to our “ghostly” hostel~ We headed to bed pretty early after some go-stop rounds and wine :)
[enjoying the local fare at a restaurant we randomly found which i had actually happened to jot down the name of - it's 전주 식당 - jeonju shikdang; tasty beef and seafood stew, though i didnt much care for the raw oysters][playing go stop in our room at the hostel - ginny kicked my ass and i drank a lot of the wine we brought back from dinner]

We woke up later than we had expected the next morning~ but that’s okay because it’s vacation~ :) As soon as we got ready, we went straight to the bus station and caught the bus to go to the most southern point of Korea, where the Ttangkkeut Tower was located (in the town of “Ttangkkeut”).
[we took a picture of the bus schedule because we weren't sure about how much time we'd need to catch our bus back to mokpo and then suwon]

It was the best area comparing to the places that we had been staying for the last 2 nights, simply because it was more like a village and it’s along the coast :) Instead of going along the route that other tourists took, we decided to walk along a small rocky beach to get to the Ttangkkeut Tower, which involved climbing along some small “cliffy” rock on the way. That was really great! We found a big flat rock on the way where we could sit down for a while and enjoy the ocean breeze~~ Life is good~~
[climbing the rocky coastline]
[hiuyan in deep thought]
[we decided to climb up the small 'mountain' overshadowing us and see the 땅끝탑 - 'ddangkkeut tap', the official south point tower and observation deck]
[it was impossible to get a picture of this statue alone because there was an endless stream of group photos, so i gave up and took a picture of some family]
[the ocean breeze is nice, but damn frigid]
[for some reason i was fascinated by these fishing nets and platforms]
We decided to go back to Suwon after Ttangkkeut, because peter’s sickness got worse from being in the cold weather too long, and I was tired, too. When we came down from the top of the hill where Ttangkkeut was , we still had 30 minutes until the bus was scheduled to leave but suddenly, we noticed that there were ships going to those real small islands nearby! Peter and I were like,” no way! How come we didn’t notice that before???” 30 minutes wasn’t enough of course… “Next time.” Peter said. That put a smile on my face, for some reason :) Peter later said that going to one of those smaller islands would be the kind of spontaneousness that he wish we would’ve done – going to somewhere we had not planned and we didn’t know about, an expected discovery of something exciting and beautiful. The feeling of being spontaneous is good, but it’s not just for the sake of being spontaneous. It’s somewhere/something that you feel from the bottom of your heart that you really want to go/do. That excitement, the possibility, just from thinking about it, would make your heart pound :) I couldn’t help but recalled my trip to Switzerland a few years ago. For a month, I was by myself. I could hop on and off of public transportation throughout the whole country because I got “Swiss Pass”. Therefore, even though I planned where to go everyday, I would always end up being somewhere else. Because when I saw a place where looked really attractive to me, I would jump off the train. I really made good use of my “Swiss Pass” honestly :) I had been missing that kind of spontaneousness very much, now that peter reminded me about it. I had been more careful that I haven’t reminded myself/been reminded about it for quite a while. Most likely, that feeling would be different (and enchanted) when I’m with peter…
So, where was I? Sorry about going off topic again. Yes, we only/still got 30 minutes until the bus departed. We decided to hang out at the lighthouse until then. There was no one on the way to the lighthouse/ at the lighthouse, which made it prettier than we would’ve ever expected… :)
[ddangkkeut port - ginny didnt understand why i wanted a picture of this junk boating equiptment]

Finally, the bus came and we settled ourselves down, contentedly. Feeling the diffuse warmth from my heart, I gave myself a fulfilling smile :)