Jeung-do: Asia’s First Slow City
Jeung-do, or Jeung Island is the first Slow City in Asia. While I was in Jeung-do I got to walk through mudflats, see salt farms, and ride a bike all over the island. What exactly is a Slow City? Read on to find out!
Introduction (short paragraph to set the stage):
Jeung-do or Jeung Island is Asia’s first Slow City. It was designated as a Slow City by the Cittaslow organization in 2007 and has become one of 176 cities around the world that are designated slow cities. A slow city is one that pledges to continue to live traditionally, thus preserving their traditional culture. The goal is to protect cultures as well as encourage agricultural practices that do not damage the land, but rather make the best use of it. According to the Korean Cittaslow website they also promote renewable clean energy. Cittaslow works with another movement called Slow Food, which encourages traditional methods of farming that focus not on mass production, but on producing food in a way that is least damaging to the environment, this idea is called sustainable agriculture.
All of these ideas can be seen on Jeung-do. They harvest their own seafood, catching it in the mudflats or from the ocean. There are numerous small-scale farms in which they grow vegetables and grains, and the island also produces all of its own salt in the salt farms. As I was traveling around the island I saw that there were a few places where solar panels had been set up to harvest the sun’s energy. There wasn’t the bali bali or “speedy speedy” culture of Seoul, and it was nice to take a break from all of the hustle and bustle of city life! Even though I did not find a reliable Internet connection for much of the trip, I don’t think that has to be a characteristic of a Slow City. It is about preserving what is valuable over rapid industry. Perhaps in time, they will develop an internet system that relies on renewable energies!
Local Time: 4:58 PM
Time Zone: Korean Standard Time (KST)
Location (Latitude, Longitude):
Jeung Island is located at about 34.9º North by 126° East. This is an estimate based on a latitude and longitude map, as I couldn’t find the exact coordinates.
How far did I travel this week?
I traveled about 380 kilometers or 236 miles
How did I get around this week?
To get to Jeung-do I took the KTX train and it took about five hours to get from Seoul to the train station in Gwangjoo. From Gwangjoo we took a tour bus across the bridge to Jeung-do. The island itself is pretty small, so when we wanted to get around the island we would either walk or ride bicycles so I got a lot of exercise this weekend!
What was the most interesting place I visited this week?
On Friday my friends and I rented some bicycles and rode all the way to Jeung-do’s salt farm! Jeung-do is the location of the largest salt producer in Korea according to the website for Korean tourism. Near the salt farms was a place to buy salt ice cream and also a salt sauna! The salt sauna was really interesting. Before we went in they told us to drink a small cup of salt water that tasted kind of like boiled eggs. Then they had us take off our shoes and put on little cloth ones as well as a cloth hairnet. I bet we looked pretty silly! Then we went into a warm room that looked like it had been carved out of a block of salt. There were places to lay down on the floor, and since it was dark and warm many of fell asleep. We weren’t allowed to take our cameras in with us so sadly I do not have any pictures.
While we were at the salt farms we also got salt ice cream. Salt ice cream is soft serve ice cream sprinkled with flavored salt. There was chocolate flavored salt as well as strawberry, green tea, blueberry and many others. I got gam-gyour which is a type of tangerine. Even though it seemed strange to mix salt and ice cream it was actually really yummy and we all enjoyed it!
Other travel news:
The hotel that we stayed at had a Korean bathhouse, otherwise known as a jim-jil-bahng. These are places that men and women go to relax. I had never been to a jim-jil-bahng before so I was really excited to go. In the jim-jil-bahng there is a sauna, heated pools and cold pools. Since you don’t wear clothes in the jim-jil-bahng there are separate rooms for men and women. When you first go in you take a shower to clean yourself off and then you head to one of the heated pools.
You sit in the pool until you are hot and then you can head to the sauna. The sauna was really hot inside. According to the sign it was 94° Celsius. That is 200° Fahrenheit! I did not know humans could stand temperatures that hot. You do not stay in the sauna for very long, only until you start to sweat. After the sauna you can go jump in one of the cold pools, but I didn’t do that since the cold air outside was enough. I saw many Korean women going through this process a few times before they decided to take a shower and head back to the resort. It was really warm and relaxing and I am looking forward to going many more times before I leave Korea!
Weather Tally (enter the # of days for each weather type):
Partly cloudy: 0
What is the air temperature right now?
The temperature is 22° Celsius. Can you figure out what that is in Fahrenheit?
How was the weather this week?
While I was in Jeung-do it was really cloudy and rainy. I arrived on Thursday afternoon and it started raining almost as soon as we started our walk to the mudflats! It was also cloudy on Friday, but it didn’t rain so we were able to go for a bike ride, which was a lot of fun! It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day on Saturday and I enjoyed the few hours I had in Gwang-ju waiting for the train back to Seoul. Unfortunately I had to spend most of the beautiful day on the train. Today was really nice as well, it was cloudy in Seoul, but it was also warm so I spent a lot of time outside!
What animals did I see this week?
I got to see a few unusual animals this week. I got to see some crabs as well as a mudskipper, which is a type of fish that has legs! The shop we rented bikes from also had a really cute puppy that I got to hold!
What was the coolest thing I saw in nature this week?
The coolest animal I saw had to be the amphibious fish with legs called a mudskipper in English or jahng-doong-oh in Korean. Seeing it walking around outside of the water was really interesting.
Other Nature News:
Imagine walking barefoot through sticky, gooey mud in search of interesting mud flat creatures like crabs and mudskippers. Well, that is exactly what I got to do last weekend and it was a blast! I arrived on Jeung-do Thursday afternoon. As soon as I got there we had a few minutes to drop off our stuff and grab a raincoat and then we headed straight to the beach. As we were walking through the pine forest on our way to the beach it started to rain really hard and I was glad that I had brought my raincoat with me!
We reached the edge of the pine forest as the rain started to slow a bit. From there our guides told us to take off our shoes, because we would be walking along the beach to the mudflats. Walking along the beach I saw many interesting things. Since it was raining, there were few animals to see, but we did see clues that told us there were many hiding under the sand below our feet! We saw piles and piles of small sand-balls from the crabs that scuttle along the beaches. These crabs are commonly called Sand Bubbler Crabs and can be found on beaches around the world. Our tour guide told us that this crab sifts through the sand and eats all of the nutrients out of it. Once the crab is done with the sand it rolls it up into a ball and leaves these balls all over the beach!
Once we reached the mud flat we all understood why we had to take our shoes off, the mud was super sticky! We all walked through the mud flats in single file to try and minimize the amount of damage we might do to the habitat. It was difficult to walk in the mud and one of my friends even sunk into the mud up to her knee! My feet got caked in mud and I felt like I was wearing mud shoes.
There are many creatures that live in the mudflat, but I only got to see a few because of the rain. I got to see some crabs, but I also got to see something I had never seen before, a fish with legs! They aren’t legs in the way that human legs are, but they are more like fins. They allow the mudskipper to leave the water and walk along the sand. This mudskipper is also amphibious, which means it can survive outside of the water. Can you think of any other amphibious animals?
What languages are spoken here?
The people in Jeung-do speak Korean. When I was listening to our guides they did not sound like they spoke a different dialect, but listening to some of the other people it sounded like there was a slight difference in the way that they said certain phrases. According to a book called Korean Language in Culture and Society there is a slight difference in the way that Koreans in the south-west pronounce certain words, as well as how they phrase certain sentences. I think I am not quite familiar enough with the Korean language to be able to tell when someone has an accent yet.
What type of money is used here?
Just like in the rest of South Korea the currency used in Jeung-do is the won. Like in the U.S. there are coins as well as bills. There is a 10 won coin, a 50 won coin, a 100 won coin and a 500 won coin. The only time I ever need to use the 10 and 50 won coins is when I am at the post office or the vending machine, usually though I do not need them. The 10 won coin is like the penny in the U.S. and the 50 won coin is kind of like our five cent coin.
Each coin value has its own picture and the amount it is worth. The 100 won coin features the portrait of General Yi Soon-shin. He is famous for his victories against the Japanese during the invasion in the Joe-sun dynasty during the 1590’s. He is a very famous figure and even has a statue in Gwang-hwa-moon Square in Seoul’s business district.
How much does a bottle of water cost?
A bottle of water at the convenience store near the salt museum cost ₩500 or almost 50 cents in U.S dollars. Bottles of water in Seoul tend to vary in cost between ₩500-1,000 depending on the brand.
What was the best meal this week?
After our walk through the mudflats we got back tired, dirty and hungry! We all walked to the beach in the rain to eat barbeque under the tents. Even though I love barbeque I usually find that I am not full after eating it, but this time I was stuffed by the time I finished! We got a lot of different types of meat like pork, sausages, mussels and shrimp! One of my friends barbequed, while the rest of us sat around eating the instant rice. We wanted to wait for him to eat, but he wouldn’t let us. He kept telling us to bali mogo, which means hurry up and eat.
We grilled the shrimp head, shell and all so I had my first experience cleaning a shrimp! It was kind of weird, since the shrimp still had its head, which you have to take off before you can eat it. I also tried the go-chew or spicy pepper for the first time. I was worried it was going to be really spicy, but it wasn’t! It was actually really yummy and I’m glad I finally tried it. I was so full after the meal I felt like I wouldn’t have to eat another meal for days!
What music did I listen to this week?
Many of the tour buses come with a karaoke machine so that travelers can sing songs on the bus if they want to. One of my friends really likes to sing old Korean ballad songs, so I got to listen to some of my friends singing Korean pop songs from the 1990s! We also listened to some current Korean pop music like G-Dragon’s song Crayon and some songs by the group SISTAR.
What activity was the most fun this week?
I really enjoyed riding a bike around the island! I got to see the salt farms as well as vegetable farms and a small solar power plant. Even though it was cloudy, it was a really nice day and I haven’t ridden a bike in a while so it was a lot of fun!
What did I read this week?
I haven’t read anything other than textbooks this week.
What games or sports did I play this week?
I got to learn a new game called Go Stop. It is a traditional Korean card game that is really difficult to learn, but it can be a lot of fun once you memorize the rules! The main idea of the game is to match cards that go together. There are four categories of cards. There are gwang cards, which have the Chinese character for gwang on them. You get a certain number of points depending on how many of them you collect. There are also animal cards, ribbon cards and pi, which are only worth one point each.
The goal is to get to a certain number of points. Once a player reaches this goal they can choose to continue to try to win more money, or they can choose to stop and take what they have. If they decide to continue they could lose all their money to another player. It is a gambling game, but my friends and I just played it for fun. I won, even though I’m not sure if I understand all of the rules yet! The cards are really common and you can often find them in convenience stores! If you want to look at all of the rules this website has everything listed including pictures of the cards. http://www.pagat.com/fishing/gostop.html
Other news from this week:
Today, Sunday, is the day of one of the biggest celebrations during the Lotus Lantern Festival. These lantern festivals lead up to the celebration of Buddha’s birthday on the 17th. Buddha is a spiritual teacher in the Buddhist religion. Though he lived thousands of years ago, Buddhists all over the world celebrate his birthday in his honor and in remembrance of his teachings.
My friends and I took a bus to Insadong where the festival was taking place. While I was waiting for the parade to start I made a pretty paper lotus at one of the booths lining the main street. Once the parade started paper floats began to make their way down the road. It was starting to get dark and the lights shining through paper floats made them look magical! There were also drummers and dancers and a paper dragon! It was a really beautiful festival and I am looking forward to seeing Buddha’s birthday celebrations on Friday!