Home > Travel > Zoned out, part three

Zoned out, part three

I eventually got up at around 8:30 on Sunday morning – breakfast was supposed to be served between 8 and 9am. Bo, John and Rosie were still asleep (as far as I could tell).

I took my bag into the living room and gently tapped on the bathroom door. No response. The handle didn’t give when I tried so I waited for a while, thinking I might have knocked a little too gently. After a few minutes I reasoned that there was probably no one in there and I’d simply turned the handle the wrong way – the intuitive way. And so it was. While taking a shower I failed to set my towel down far enough away from the wide-spray shower head. It ended up being partially soaked.

Bo emerged from the bedroom once I’d finished in the bathroom and we headed over to get some breakfast. This turned out to be toast with fried eggs, jam or peanut butter (although why anyone would want to consume that shit in a jar is beyond me). I went back to the toasting table for some more toast and found there to be no bread – so I took a loaf out of a box of miscellaneous foods. I think this annoyed the tour guide – he was trying to get breakfast finished.

After breakfast there was some free time – tandem bicycles had been provided for people to go exploring. Bo and I walked over to the scene of the previous night’s ‘bravery game’ – the cenotaph on Baengmagoji. We were followed by Habiba and her friend. The I stopped to take a few photos of birds and icy fields, and we followed them the rest of the way.

Field

I took a good few shots of the memorial – it’s a pretty huge thing, and, like the observatory from Saturday, it’s all grey stone and sharp edges. The weather wasn’t as good as it had been, but as Bo and I were up at the cenotaph and nosing around the tiny museum it wasn’t too bad. After a while we descended the hill to take part in another game.

Baengmagoji Cenotaph

The itinerary had informed us we would be doing some mine clearing. We’d joked that this was a ploy by the Korean government to use expendable foreigners for this dangerous task. On a more serious note we were hoping this might provide an insight into how mines are dealt with. In the event, we were split into groups of eight, each person working individually with a radio that was supposed to pick up a bleep from a small transmitter hidden somewhere on the hill.

Baengmagoji

This wasn’t nearly as much fun as it could have been – principally because the radios Bo and I ended up with didn’t appear to pick up anything other than ‘khhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’. We’re too old for that sort of thing, anyway. I fiddled with my dial and found a station playing classical music.

We stuck around to take more photos – including the brightly coloured (in a typically Korean way) bell pavilion – and take in the view. The weather drew in – by the time we left it was spitting.

Bell

When we returned to the guesthouse we still had a little time to kill before the coach left, so Botond and I took one of the tandems for a ride. I had us stop so I could take a few shots of the village. As happened so often during the trip, we were just about the last people to board the bus.

Our next and final stop on the tour was Jiktang Pokpo – Jiktang Waterfall. The tour guide described this as the Korean Niagara Falls. Partly seriously, partly ironically as it turned out. The comment didn’t really do Jiktang Pokpo justice – Niagara Falls is such a stupendous spectacle that Jiktang looks pathetic in comparison.

Actually, Jiktang Waterfall is a very pleasant site. Like Niagara Falls, Jiktang Pokpo is created by a kind of natural weir – the river is split by a fault into two distinct levels. These falls are maybe ten feet high, compared to Niagara’s 50 metres, or whatever it is. The Hantan River was fairly broad at this point, and also fairly shallow – especially above the waterfall. There were plenty of pebbles, boulders and rocks of all sizes strewn around.

Jiktang Pokpo

I took plenty of photographs and coincidentally (possibly) shadowed Habiba as she took her own snaps. We talked a little as we made our way round, over the river by a simple concrete bridge just upstream of the falls and down the road to meet the coach again. Downriver, ahead of us at this point, was a red bridge stretched across the river gorge. On the side of the bridge facing us was a structure of maybe three storeys with a platform at the top – a bungee jumping platform. Unfortunately, it isn’t open at this time of year.

Bungee Jumping Bridge

And we headed back to Seoul. At the rest stop close to Cheorwon Habiba and I chatted again. She gave me her card and invited me to go bike riding with her the following weekend – which activity I’ve just done, in fact.

All told I took nearly 550 photos – too many, probably – and I’m currently working on sorting through them and editing the best ones for my flickr page. Click on the thumbnails on the right to have a look at the ones I’ve done so far.

A good weekend, in summary. I think a trip to the DMZ is a pretty much mandatory for any foreigner living in Korea. Going on such a tour means that you don’t have to do much organising – and there could be more than usual with this location. There’s also not a huge amount to do up there, although Cheorwon appears to have a few more tourist attractions that we didn’t visit. As a result, this tour didn’t feel as hectic as the Jeju tour.

My next two priorities for Korean travel are Gyeongju and Busan; Ulleungdo (an island off the east coast) could also be an idea. My friend Paul has also invited me to join him somewhere in southeast Asia this summer – his time on the peninsula is at an end (or will be by June) so he wants to go travelling.

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