This past weekend rekindled my love for Korea. I may never leave.
First off, Anna's friend Katie came to visit from Boston this week, and I convinced them to come on a trip with me to the wayyyyyy southern tip of korea. It was the twice a year phenomenon known as the Moses Miracle. Part of the sea, twice a year, literally separates in half, and you are able to walk across it. This was the third weekend in a row I have done a trip, so i was hesitant to leave AGAIN, but sooo so glad I did. It started off not so promising, as Anna, Katie, and I signed up very late, and only luckily so, as the WiNK (When in Korea) tour group i've done a lot of trips through, decided to add a third bus because of the interest level. So naturally, we were on what can only be dubbed the 'reject bus,' full of odds and end people. A few cool people were on it, but, most people i knew going were on other buses . There were also multiple buses, each with more than one tour schedule. Everyone went to the same sea parting, of course, but that was followed by a trip to either a) A tulip festival, or B) A SICK HIKE to a suspension bridge and suspension staircase. You can guess which one I wanted to do.
So anyway, the trip up was on Friday night. We slept mayyybe 3 hours on a crowded bus. We left around 1130 and arrived to the mountain at 430am. We hiked up in the dark, though this was nothing compared to the hike I had to do back in October. (That was at Seoraksan, the second highest mountain on Korean's mainland. - we left at 1130 and arrived around 2:45 a.m. Being winter, that one the sun didn't rise til almost 7:30, so five hours hiking in the dark, straight up, was physically exhausting. It was also cumulatively about a 12 hour hike and 16km - hardest thing i've ever done - even moreso than the Tongariro crossing in NZ which was 20K, but only about 8 hours with lots of flat surfaces)
ANYWAY - we arrived at the mountain around 430/5am - and the sun was already in the air a little - it wasn't pitch black. It was a fairly short hike, around an hour to the "Cloud Bridge" - this was a suspension bridge between mountains, and every level of incredible. So running on fumes, we did this hike - up and down, and then were back on the bus to the festival.
A few hours later, we arrived to a Jindo Dog performance. Now, these dogs are breeded specifically in Jindo and nowhere else in the world. There are actually dogs that DO or DO NOT make the cut for being trained as official Jindo dogs. One ajushi performed with one, and it was great. We also did something like a Giant slide ride - that you see at every county fair in the world. However, this was less of a slide and more of a spiky mat type thing laid down on a hill, and the inner tubes had to be covered with oil before they slid down. My friend Skofe and I went down first, cause it obviously looked wicked. We went down without the oil, and - needless to say, while trying to be optimistic, it sucked. Thennnnnnn we realized the secret: the oil. Rad.
Later, we arrived at the site of the sea parting. There was a huge festival, lots of food and traditional korean music being played. We got to hold Jindo puppies and opted to eat cucumbers on a stick. And you wonder why koreans are so skinny..
Because we were with the WinK group, we were in a group of only 500 people who were able to take a small fishing boat across the sea to an island. Here, there were even more festivities and dancing and Moses themed events happening, including a guy dressed as The Man himself. At this point, I had realized Anna and Katie weren't really feeling it, and they had discussed going home, so I kind of ended up going and doing my own thing. I ran into my friend S again, and we went over and talked to some korean folks. THey had a mysterious plate of meat in front of them, which was essentially forcefed down my throat. Asking what it was only after it was safely down into my stomach, I found out it was pig head. YUMMAY.
The rest of the day continued in the same spontaneous fashion, with an ajumma strapping on a huge traditional drum to my body, and I got to play it while we circled in a celebratory dance/march. One of the most epic things. We hung out around the island for an hour or two, drinking and hanging out, as the sea progressively parted more and more. The reason it's so special to start on the island is because, if you start on the mainland, you don't get to actually cross the sea. The sea only stays open for a little over an hour before the tides wash back over the land bridge. SO you can venture out, but then you have to turn back around soon after. In fact, while we were waiting, the picture above shows how we got a picture with two lovely Korean women. I chose this picture because, honestly, it was the sweetest thing. They took a picture with their cellphone, and then wanted to send it to Skofe. I didn't have a phone. So, there's this thing called Kakao talk, which is essentially free texting/calling here, but their internet or something wasn't working, so we cut our losses and said goodbye. 20 minutes later they tracked us down, had gotten their app to work, asked for his name so they could send us the picture we wanted! They saved him as "키나다 친구" - meaning Canada Friend. SUCH SWEET PEOPLE.
So anyway.. next..We got to cross the sea in its entirety. We also led the march by holding huge flags as we walked behind the man leading it all: Moses.
We made our way across, with instruments playing, flags waving, and watching the ajummas get their catches for the day (octopus, fish, and other scores). Being a naive crusader, I didn't purchase rainboots, and made the crossing in my flip flops. This turned out to be ridiculous, as there were definitely sections that hadn't been cleared totally, and i ended up being mid-shin deep for half the crossing - and the water was not quite swimming temperature.
Never one to complain, it was an experience for sure. Walking on water? Check.
The problem facing me at the end of the day was Anna and Katie wanted to go home, which left me with no one. Luckily, my friend who has an in with the group leader snuck me on his bus, and I got to go stay at the beach side pension that most of the helpers of the trips got to stay at. We had an awesome bbq dinner and had a bonfire ocean side that night. Again, passed out on a floor without a pillow - i WILL sleep anywhere when I get home.
The next morning, we got to see a procession of women going to check out the water where the tide had pulled away. This is how many korean women end up getting food for their restaurant, is stepping out into where the tide goes down and searching for oysters, clams, and other goods. About 6 women had baskets and buckets on top of their heads and peacefully walked out into the low tide zone to fish. Between that and the misty mountain scenery i've come to love, it's impossible to want to leave. However, we were soon on our way off to one more hike.
This one had a Stairway to Heaven - a suspension staircase - something many people cannot stomach. I've attached a link to the sign I saw there: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_07JiQvfMJwM/SJB_a-K9PHI/AAAAAAAAA9o/rAzc9EiGExc/s320/P1010816.JPG
Only in Korea would you be advised to not pass the drunken.
But the view from the top was unmissable. We hiked back down and had some compulsory makgeolli. I've been convinced for a while most koreans hike just so they have an excuse to drink before noon. Not that they need one. Never mind.
Anyway, it was a wonderful day with great folks, as always. We bused back home, and drank the whole way home. I don't know how ill road trip anymore without alcohol. 930am on a Saturday morning or 9pm on a Sunday night, the buses are filled with booze. Poju specifically in this case, powerade and soju. More specifically - the sojuice has become a staple in my daily wknd life. It's aloe (yah thats a juice here) - mixed with soju. I've been told the quantities dont matter, it can be 90-10 soju-aloe, and you still wont taste the rubbing alcohol likeness of soju). Anyway, I hopped off the bus early in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, and went to my friend's house, hung out, watched stupid youtube videos, but due to a severe need of a shower and pure exhaustion, I decided to get home.
Well this will be the last story of this weekend, because, well it is 12am on a Sunday at this point. I get on the train back to Seoul, as I'm 1.5 hours south of it now. This requires two transfers. Get out at Guru, wait hopefully at a platform for 20 minutes, realize a train is indeed not coming, walk over to another one, thankfully catch another to Noryangjin, where i transfer to my Subway Line.
Get there, it's closed, the last train has long ago left. It's now pushing around 1am... and everyone is grabbing cabs who missed the subway. I give directions to the cab driver in limited korean, doesn't help no one knows my building, so i usually have to direct using my knowledge of "right, left, straight" and various grunts and pointing. Then I realize I have about 5,000 won to my name. Which is less than 5 USD. Ehhhhhhhhhhh not gonna get me home.
I rode til the meter read 4,900, and hopped out. Proceeded to walk with my massive backpack the rest of the 40 min walk home. Got in around 2AM.
Always a journey.