Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up (Road Trip) - (Korea) Days 138 & 139

At the top of the hill above the Hanok Village in Jeonju

Woke up around 0200 and had to go pee. SPC Roy had left the TV on and it must have been the Korean version of Cinemax after hours because there was some Korean soft port going on. I turned off the TV and headed back to bed, then slept until about 0830. We woke up and got ready, then headed out in search of breakfast. Not knowing the city of Jeonju at all, we thought we would just drive around and find a place. Everywhere we went, it seemed that all the places were closed. We finally came across a McDonald's and ended up having breakfast there. We stopped at a convenience store on the way back for some snacks (that was going to be my lunch). When we got back SPC Roy took off to go help his in-laws on the rice fields. I stayed back in the hotel room and just sat down and did homework. I had to work on a final paper and also do my normal attendance and such. I spent a few hours doing that before taking a break. I decided to go for a run, but first I wanted to walk around and do a little sight seeing. There was a little tourist area near the hotel we were at called the Jeonju Hanok Village. This little village has 700 traditional Korean houses (Hanok) that are still home to residents today. It states that Hanok Village is the best-preserved living traditional village. I walked through it and took some photos. then followed some stairs and a trail up to the top of a hill where a I could take some more pictures and take in the view.

After the sight seeing was done I went for a little run. I wanted to get in a little bit of exercise during this road trip. The funny thing is that since we were pretty far down south and there are no military posts around, I was looked at quite a bit. I guess they don't see white people around too often, especially running down their alleys. I ended up getting just a little lost, but after back tracking I was able to figure out where to go. I've mentioned the RunKeeper application that I use on my iPhone, but you can also join their website for free and track your runs.

When I got back to the room I showered and then started working on my schoolwork some more until SPC Roy came back from the rice patties. He took a shower and then we headed out on the town to find a place to eat. We drove to a place near our hotel, but decided to keep looking. After driving around we ended up in what seemed like an outdoor mall. I think everyone in town happened to be walking around including all through the streets, so it took us forever to get out of there. The place was crawling with kids and young adults. My guess is that it is the place for the night life as well, but we were just looking for a good place to eat. We ended up going back to the hotel and going to the first place we passed by earlier. I'm so glad we did, it was a Korean barbecue and it was soooo good! We cooked the small pieces of beef right there on the table in front of us and then dipped it in some sauce, wrapped it up in some lettuce and ate them. Add the kimchi and other small sides and I was very full. The place was awesome. We shared a bottle of soju and just enjoyed the awesome food.

Next on the to do list was going to a place were we could drink some Makkoli (Korean rice wine). I had wanted to try this stuff since I arrived here, but never had the chance until now. I just moved from central Washington state where wine has become very popular and although I'm no wine connoisseur I do enjoy going wine tasting and visiting the various vineyards that surrounded the area. Korean rice wine looks a little milky, but it tastes very good. It was served to us in a big teapot. We were given two bowls to drink out of and then all of a sudden the guy brought out a ton of food as well. I tried a few things, but I was really too full to eat much. We ended up drinking two "teapots" full of Makkoli. During this entire time SPC Roy and I had some interesting talks. I learned about how he came to America and was fresh off the boat starting 6th grade…speaking no English. He had a very hard year getting made fun of and getting in a lot of fights because he was so different than all the other kids. In just one year he was able to adjust and took in everything America had to offer. His parents made him speak Korean back at home, so he was able to stay fluent which now makes him an extra $400 a month in the army. I heard stories of basically his entire life up until now, it was a pretty deep and emotional talk and pretty cool getting to know a lot more personal stuff about him.

So after we finished the Makkoli we headed out and SPC Roy was feeling pretty sore from working in the rice fields all day. He decided that we both needed massages, so we found a massage place and we both ended up getting 2 hour massages. It was pretty interesting, we both went into a room that was separated by a small wall that came up to about the height of my hips. On each side there was a massage table and we both disrobed and put on some shorts we were given. We then laid down and two chicks came in and worked on us. At one point SPC Roy fell asleep and started snoring so loud I thought people in the next building over could probably hear him. Everyone started laughing and he woke up. It felt awesome and by the time we left I felt like jello from head to toe.

A view from above the Hanok Village in Jeonju

A view from above the Hanok Village in Jeonju

Me in front of the Jeonju Hanok Village

Drinking Makkoli - you can see the "teapot" and the brown bowls we drank from...
along with all the crazy food they brought with it!

Sunday: We slept until about 1000. We slowly got up and got ready. We both found out that our backs were all pretty bruised from the massages that we received the night before. Those ladies went to town on us! We checked out by noon and headed towards SPC Roy's in-laws farm. He wanted to show me where he worked yesterday and also just show me the difference between city life and country life in Korea. Let me tell you that the difference is night and day. The people are different out in the country. They all seem a bit shorter, and you can tell they work hard manual labor all the time. In fact I noticed a lot of the women walk bent over. I'm guessing this is because they spend so much time bent over in the fields working.

We headed off and had brunch at a tofu restaurant which SPC Roy was so excited to eat at. It was actually pretty good, I enjoyed everything I tried there…especially the bean donuts. We then went to a national park to do a little sight seeing once again. The place is called Maisan Provincial Park and is a big tourist destination…or at least it was today. SPC Roy said he's never seen so many people here. There were a whole number of buses and we had to park pretty far away from even the entrance to start going up the mountain which had SPC Roy all kinds of pissed. On the hike up there is a temple and a pond where a number of people were in paddle boats floating around. When we arrived at the top there are a number of pagodas which are basically a pile of rocks that form a small tower. The story is that an old grandpa came up and built all of these in the area. There is a small statue of the dude and a whole story you can read about it. It also states that if you put water into a bowl during the winter, the water freezes into a pole reaching for the sky…not sure if that is myth or not because it's spring now.

After checking out the park we headed back towards Seoul, taking the scenic route. We stopped at a dam for a break and to take some more pictures. At this point three little Korean kids ran up to me and started asking me all kinds of questions in Korean. SPC Roy said "they are asking if you are a foreigner" LOL. I don't think they've ever seen a white guy before. I mentioned this before, I would get people waving or smiling or saying hi…but this was a first with the kids. It was pretty funny.

Back on the road again we ended up stopping near Seoul at a rest stop to eat dinner. Rest stops in Korea are quite a bit different than back in the states. They contain bathrooms of course, but they also have a gas station and a number of vendors out selling food. There is a place you can go in and sit and eat more restaurant style food and finally there is usually some sort of convenience store. A one stop shop for everything you need on a road trip. I even saw a Korean midget there, but it was just too dark for me to take a photo.

We headed back to the post and I arrived in my room about 2130. After a little school work I passed out. I think for being last minute and totally unexpected, this weekend road trip turned out to be a pretty cool experience.

The bruises on my back from the previous night's massage

A Buddha on the way up the mountain at Maisan Provincial Park

Me and SPC Roy at Maisan Provincial Park

Me with a couple of the many pagodas behind me

No comments:

Post a Comment