Jumping in Jecheon

weeeee!
Weeee!

What else is there to do on Thanksgiving weekend when you’re 6000 miles away from home and you can’t find any turkey or pumpkin pie?

It all began several months ago, when I was on an
Adventure Korea trip last spring. Taking a ferry across the beautiful, yellow-dusted waters of Chungju Lake, our peaceful journey was interrupted by terrified screams as we came across ChungPung Land’s bungee jump. I later discovered that this was the biggest jump in Korea at 62 meters (203 feet), which also makes it the third highest jump in Asia. And I immediately vowed not to leave the country until I had made the jump.

Unfortunately, ChungPung Land isn’t very close to Ulsan, and so it was another 6 months or so before I was able to make it back – just in time for the last jump of the season, and my last chance before leaving Korea.

Cheong Pung Land

ChungPung Land is in or just outside of Jecheon, a 4.5-hour, aggravatingly slow train ride from Ulsan. The website had suggested taking a local city bus out to the bungee jump, but other blogs reported the bus could take an hour, a highly unappealing prospect after just getting off the train. Instead we opted for the easy option and got a couple taxis, who probably ripped us off a bit charging 25,000 won, but at least it was quick.

The taxi ride out to the jump was adventurous in itself, down a narrow road with a daring taxi driver, passing in no-pass zones and rounding sharp curves recklessly. It was a good warm-up for the events to come!

When we got there it wasn’t very crowded, with only one other group of foreigners around. We bought tickets for the “big 3” which included an Ejection Seat, Giant Swing, and the bungee jump. The bungee itself was 40,000 won, and adding the other two for only 20,000 more seemed like a pretty good deal.


The ejection seat was up first. It didn’t look like much at first, but looks can be deceiving. The two-person seat is in a little metal frame suspended between two bungee cords, which is sling-shotted by a giant metal arm, launching you incredibly high into the air and spinning in circles before gradually making your way back to earth.

I felt very secure, with no details being spared in fastening us to the seat. We wore a safety belt and harness, something over our legs and they even had me cross my arms over my chest, harhar. According to my friends, there was a very likely danger of my boobs getting stretched, which I hadn’t found any backing evidence of on the internet but better safe than sorry!


Next we were suited up for the Big Swing, which seemingly required the help of 1-3 staff members per person. The staff was entirely university-aged Korean guys, of whom there seemed to be way more than necessary working for the slow customer-flow of that afternoon. Lucky for us, they spoke some English, which went something like this: “You, here. Step. Catch. Go. Now.” Where they learned this blunt manner of speaking, I have no idea.

As we headed over to the swing, a group of people had gathered to watch. To start, you were hooked in at the shoulder and ankle and suspended at a rather awkward angle as they finished securing everything. Then it was a slow, slow ascent, which suddenly (and terrifyingly) jerked to a halt at the top. But the scariest part was having to pull the release cable yourself to start your fall. Which required a bit more force than expected, and so there were several false starts of tugging and not falling. Quite terrifying. But also ridiculously fun! Although my description may not do the experience justice.

Finally, it was time for the bungee! We changed into bungee gear and were weighed, each of us getting a little card of a different color. We took a very tiny elevator up to the top of the crane, where there were already people waiting. It was a bit cold and windy at the top, and the view looking through the crane beneath our feet did nothing to comfort our nerves. Unfortunately, we had quite a while to wait for everyone in front of us to jump.

The color of our cards determined the order we could jump, which apparently meant I would go last. After watching so many people go, I was incredibly impatient for my turn to come. When it finally came time to strap the giant cables around my ankles, I wasn’t really nervous. It was exciting to finally be doing something I’d been looking forward to for so long. They led me to the edge of the platform, between some hand rails. Even then, I still felt quite secure and ready to go. Then they instructed me to put my feet halfway over the edge of the platform. Ok, no problem. And then I was told to look up. And take my hands off the handrails to hold them above my head while they counted to 5 for me to jump. Which is where the nerves kicked in.

As soon as I’d look away from my feet and took my hands off the handrails, I’d lose my sense of balance and it was as if my feet were on something as thin as a tightrope. Haphazardly flailing over the edge was not the way I wanted to go. After a lot of false starts of putting my hands up and back down, we eventually worked something out where I did a one-arm up kinda dive.

And. it. was. AWESOME!

Safe landing
Actually, as soon as I landed I felt like I forgot everything about what it felt like to bungee jump. And I wanted to go again. The fall was somehow less scary than the fall on the swing. The bouncing around part after the initial bit was strange, as you’re like a ragdoll at the end of the cable being snapped back and forth. But it was also ridiculously fun!

After a while, it got pretty annoying to be upside down. Especially because after you finish bouncing you get lowered very slowly down to the guy in the raft, whose been waiting for you in the ‘safety pool’ under the crane. It felt like I’d been upside down for far too long by the time I made it to the raft, but that was the only negative feeling of the whole experience.

The view from the jump
The calm view from the jump.

Besides Chungpung Land, the area around Chungju Lake is beautiful and must be amazing during the summer. Although it is very resort-y, with prices to match. We went to a cool-looking restaurant for some post-jump dinner where we found dalk kalbi for 20,000 won per serving! Which was a bit much, to me. The owner of the restaurant was a Korean man with impressive English speaking abilities and equally impressive long, wild gray hair – a rather unusual site in the country. He was curious about what we were doing in town and how we had found his restaurant, and then was incredibly considerate in having someone drive us back into town for free. I’d recommend his restaurant but I’ve forgotten the name. It’s the really cool looking place on the way to Jecheon though, and if you ever get the chance you should go.

We found a ridiculously cheap love motel (50,000 for two rooms!) near the train station and headed out in search of the local nightlife. And then we spent about an hour or so wandering around without any luck. There seemed to be a highly disproportionate number of shady-looking girly bars for such a small town, but I guess for the resort season. Eventually we found some young people in a trendy cafe who sent us to the part of town where all the bars were. From there we met some other foreigners who took us to a big party at “Foreigner Bar”, and our night was set.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any good close-ups of my bungee jump, which just means I’ll have to do it again! Perhaps in Macau

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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.