My most memorable weekend in Korea
Abstract: Last weekend, I was able to escape the city and venture out into the mountains and forests of Korea. This was a brand new side of Korea for me, and I fell in love with it.
Introduction: East of Seoul, there is a long mountain range extending from north to south. The population in the area is much lower than many places in Korea because the land is not really suited for building cities. Because of this, the area has been pretty well preserved and is an attractive destination for nature lovers in Korea. After visiting the area for just three days last weekend, my friends I didn’t want to leave. Let me show you some of what we loved so much.
Local Time: 8:38pm
Time Zone: Korea Standard Time
How far have I traveled on my journey so far? I wish I had some way to accurately measure the distances I have traveled here, but I can actually only guess. With all the trips to Seoul and other cities around Korea, I would say that I have covered at least 1000 miles already.
How did I get around this week? This week we rode intercity tour buses, city buses, taxis, subway trains, and kayaks!
What was the most interesting place I visited this week? The most interesting place I visited this week also happened to be the most beautiful place I have seen in Korea. We spent the weekend in a rural, mountain village called YeongWol.
Other travel news: Last Friday, 10 of my friends and I traveled to YeongWol for a three day, two night vacation. We were all very excited to finally leave the city and explore the natural side of Korea. Getting there was an adventure in itself though. We were able to leave early on Friday because our classes were canceled for the Buddha’s Birthday holiday. Unfortunately, it seemed like everyone else in Korea wanted to travel that weekend as well.
Our bus ride from Seoul to YeongWol was supposed to be about two hours long including a 10 minute rest break. Because of all the holiday traffic, it turned into a hot, five hour nightmare. As the traffic got worse, we could see the driver’s frustration increasing. He began making sharp turns into small side roads to try and avoid traffic jams and long traffic lights. All of the bouncing, swerving, sharp turns, and sudden stopping began making the people in the back of the bus quite motion sick!
Even though the bus ride there was so awful, I would do it all over again just to go back. YeongWol was incredible.
Weather Tally (enter the # of days for each weather type):
Partly cloudy: 2
What is the air temperature right now? 61 degrees Fahrenheit
How was the weather this week? We had some of the best weather of my trip this week. Almost every day was between 60 and 70 degrees with plenty of sunshine and light breezes. I could not ask for better weather for traveling.
What animals did I see this week? This was really my first time to get out of the big cities and see the natural side of Korea. This weekend I got to see Korean native deer, flying squirrels, and otters!
What was the coolest thing I saw in nature this week? Without a doubt, the most exciting thing I saw this week was a flying squirrel. It was just about dusk and I saw one jumping from a very high tree on the side of the mountain. He glided through the air and landed perfectly on a small tree branch very far from where he started. It reminded me of the people who parachute with wingsuits. I wish I could do that too!
Other Nature News: The first morning in Yeongwol, I woke up at about 5am because I was so excited to get out and explore the area. The air was brisk and clean, it had the faint smell of wood and water. In the early morning fog, I began hiking up the mountain that overlooked the small house that we rented for the night. The mountain towered above us and looked like it was scraping clouds from the sky. Small white puffs hung loosely around the trees near the top of the mountain and reached down like waterfalls in some places.
There was no trail and the mountain was very steep. In some places, I had to use both hands and feet to climb ahead. There were many rocks that would slide out from under me and I had to quickly grab for a tree or other rock to keep myself from going down the hill with them. It felt like I was climbing for hours, but every now and then, I could peek through the trees at the valley below. I was much higher each time.
Hours later, I finally reached the top. I climbed up the tallest tree I could find so that I could get a good view. It was majestic. The morning clouds had covered the sunrise earlier in the morning, but by 8:30 the sun was already breaking out from behind them. The sunlight fell over the mountains and into the valley like water. I tried to concentrate on every tree, rock, river bend, and shadow so I could create a perfect memory of the scene. I wanted to take it all with me.
This was the side of Korea I had been missing. All the traffic, trash, and tall buildings of the city were far behind me. I could hear the bugs and birds, smell the wildflowers and the trees. The natural beauty overwhelmed me. It reminded me that this is what many places in the world looked like before we cut out all the trees for lumber and poured concrete over the fields that once grew flowers. I wish that everyone could visit a place like this to see how much we have lost in our race for “development”.
What languages are spoken here? Because YeongWol is a very rural area, there were very few people who could speak English with us. Luckily, we had several friends with us that could speak Korean and communicate with the locals for us. We made sure to use as much Korean as we could to say how grateful we were for all the hospitality and kindness they showed us.
What type of money is used here? Because we reserved the house and bus tickets ahead of time, we did not have to worry much about money during our trip. That was lucky for us because it took a 30 minute bus ride to reach the closest ATM if we needed to withdraw more Korean Won.
How much does a bottle of water cost? I was happy to see that most people were using refillable containers for drinking water. The main reason they avoided plastic bottles was because this area was famous for its clean mountain water so people enjoyed drinking local water more.
What was the best meal this week? It would be impossible for me to pick just one! We had a big kitchen and a wonderful Korean host so every meal was spectacular! Two of the most memorable meals were the traditional ginseng chicken soup our host shared with us, and the Mexican fajitas with homemade tortillas we shared with her!
What music did I listen to this week? As we cooked together, we listened to many types of music. Each person shared a few songs they like and we got to hear a very diverse mix! There were many Chinese and Korean songs, but also some American and Mexican songs as well.
What activity was the most fun this week? Making a campfire and roasting marshmallows with all my international friends was one of my favorite activities of the trip. Many of my friends had never tried S’mores before, so it was exciting to introduce them to this classic American campfire snack!
What did I read this week? With all the extra time I spent on the bus during our trip, I was able to read a collection of Chinese poems that had been translated by Ezra Pound. Have you ever heard of this poet before? He was very fascinated with Asia and the beauty of language. I can really relate to him!
What games or sports did I play this week? YeongWol is known for its beautiful river and many people like to float it on rafts or kayaks. We got to try taking out two person kayaks for an hour or so ourselves. It was the first time that many of them had ever tried something like that. Many of them could not even swim!
Other news from this week: The natural beauty of YeongWol was stunning, but the number one reason I loved the trip to YeongWol so much was because of the people who were there with me. My ten friends were an awesome mix of Koreans, Korean-Americans, Americans, and Chinese students. We all came from different backgrounds and lifestyles, but when we were sitting around the campfire together, we were all just friends. Nobody really thought about the differences we may have, we were just happy to be sharing the same great experience with each other.
I could not wish for a better group of people or a more beautiful place to be with them in. This was the best weekend of my time in Korea. I will always remember it.