I <3 Chungcheongbuk-do

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Chungcheongbuk-do is a province a ways north of Ulsan and a bit south of Seoul, the only land-locked province in the country. And it is absolutely wonderful for anyone who loves to be outside: full of rolling green hills (for hiking or paragliding), a giant river for rafting, caves for exploring, beautiful temples, and a beautiful lake.

Here’s the details…

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After months of thinking about going along to one of their events, I finally signed up for Adventure Korea‘s “Caveing and Ferry riding” trip. The thought of crawling through a small space deep underground that at any moment might collapse on me sounds absolutely terrifying to me, which was exactly why I thought I should do it. As it turned out, the ‘caveing’ was a bit less spelunking, a bit more “cave touring.” But more on that later.

Meeting up with the tour group in Chungju, I was surprised to find we would be traveling with two full buses – about 80 waygookens in total. I kind of feel that traveling with 80 people isn’t really the best way to see anything, especially when you’re all foreigners attracting tons of stares from the locals everywhere. But it was still fun. It was strange to meet people new to Korea from the west, as it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was the one telling everyone “I’ve only been here three weeks.” I also met someone who grew up just a few miles away from where I grew up. Crazy!

The tour group was really well organized, the guides seemed friendly, the schedule was well-planned and it was convenient to have a bus there to take us everywhere we were going, sure – but ultimately I don’t think I’m one for big tour groups.

Anyways, here are all the wonderful things I saw over the weekend:


Chungjuho Lake, from a ferry–

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I want to move to this house. Also, the farm land looks really funny from far away.

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The weekend was really yellow dust-y. This stuff blows over from China all the time in the spring apparently, and while I can never tell it’s happening when it’s happening, it sure shows up in the pictures. All of my pictures looked like they were taken in a yellow fog (I tried to clean them up a bit in Photoshop). But that’s why the water looks so yellow – it’s quite prettier in real life.


Gosu Cave

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The cave is a huge tourist destination, and was packed when we arrived. We were standing in line through the entire cave. Laaame.

The lameness was a bit made up for by the really cool rock formations, though. Which were conveniently lit up for prime picture taking. In same ways, having the cave set up for tourism was rather nice.

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Dodamsambong Rocks

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Here’s the story, from the tourism website: “According to the legend there lived a couple who loved each other, but had no child. They found a mistress because they wanted to have a baby, but once she had the baby, she began to mistreat and taunt the wife. The heavens saw them, and turned all of them into stones. The way the rocks stand next to one another is very interesting. ”

I read elsewhere about how the middle rock is the man, who is looking towards the ‘pregnant rock’ (the mistress) and turning his back to his wife. Hm.

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Near the rocks, a beautiful “stone gate”. Reminds me a bit of Mackinac Island.


Danyang

After the tour ended, I headed to Danyang with a couple of friends to do some more exploring.

The characters from the rock story are the symbols of Danyang. Is that the mistress or the wife?
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These guys are everywhere.
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Really, everywhere.
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Ah, Danyang. What a beautiful little city. I’m ready to move there, right now.

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Arriving at the bus terminal, we quickly found a cheap pension overlooking the river and headed out for a walk. The entire town is set on this river, facing some giant green hills. The river was really flooded, which we realized when we noticed that only the tops of these trees were sticking out:

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There was a boardwalk built into the side of the hill facing the river, and it seemed to stretch for miles and miles. We walked for a while, through a rose tunnel (that didn’t have any roses yet) and eventually stopped to watch the sun set behind some hills.

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Did I mention it’s pretty in Danyang?

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This was a rather intriguing find on our walk…
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…that came out of a giant tree. Strange…

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For dinner we ate at a little handmade mandu restaurant, where the owner seemed rather surprised to see foreigners – he was hesitant to give us our kimchi, gave us a free dropwort pancake, and wanted to know what we thought of everything. It was excellent. And it was nice to be somewhere that felt so small town-y.

This was supposed to be a better view of the flood, but didn’t come out quite right. Look to the right, and you can kind of see how the bicycle path and parking lot are completely under water.
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There’s a road to the left in this picture that disappears into the river. This is why we couldn’t go to the waterfall.
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Even the bugs there are beautiful!
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And a bit random, but – a strange sign seen in the city. Maybe the bird levitating above the rocks is supposed to look more …appetizing?
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Guinsa Temple

A 30 minute bus ride from Danyang is the beautiful Guinsa Temple, set in a valley between two mountains. We were there just after Buddha’s Birthday, so they still had some giant lanterns set-up.

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Another beautiful ceiling

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A nice dragon detail that caught my attention.

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These four guys guard the entrance of every Buddhist temple.

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This is a sculpture of all the zodiac signs. I thought the elephant butts were funny.

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The main temple building.

In the main temple:
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This guy apparently founded a special sect of Buddhism in this temple. It seemed weird to see him there and not Buddha though.

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Cleaning up the party from Buddha’s birthday.

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Ondalsanseong Fortress

Our final stop for the weekend was a fortress just down the street from the temple. It was of course pretty as well…

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Apparently it’s also been used in some K-drama.

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The fortress walls were surrounded by a moat, teeming with tadpoles.

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Inside we found some torture equipment.

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In a park around the fortress we found another cave. We had to put on hard hats to enter, so I had some higher expectations for adventure, and I wasn’t disppointed!

The cave was still set up for tourism, with a built-up path that you had to follow. But the cave was far less crowded, and the path went through some rather tight squeezes.

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This rock looks exactly like an elephant!!


Just when Danyang couldn’t get any better, we came across a GIANT DRAGON.

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Unfortunately, it attacked Caitlyn…

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…and killed her.

We also found a giant thumb!
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And a giant swing!
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Apparently this is normal in Korea, and is traditional, or something. It is way less fun than a normal-sized swing, so I’m glad they eventually came around.


Danyang is awesome. I don’t know who gets to live there to teach English, but I wish it were me.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. London Caller
    May 24, 2011 @ 09:41:54

    Korea is such a mesmerising place!
    Hope you had a great time there.

    Reply

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