Moseying through Korea–in the rainy season

Well I’ve been on vacation since Thursday, which means that I took to the bus-filled streets and went to some really weird, remote places.

On Thursday, as I said last time, I embarked on the Scanner Adventure. On Friday, I took off for Jeonju, where I met up with Stephanie, wandered the streets of the hanok village, and got lots of mosquito bites. The city of Jeonju, despite its traditional buildings, heavy slate roofs, and whitewashed walls, has the distinct feeling of Northern Minnesota–or Wisconsin, or the UP. It’s chalk full of artsy shops that are fun to wander through, but remind you that you are no where near rich. Jeonju is home to the Joseon Dynasty, and Hanji, an ancient art of making paper. Tons of paper related delicacies are on sale there, and they’re really cool, but doubly expensive. Last time I was there, I bought a pair of paper-made earrings–which I promptly lost in the shuffle between work and Taekwondo.

On Saturday, Stephanie and I took a bus from Jeonju to Tapsa–definitely the most exciting and exhilerating temples I have seen in Korea. The temple is wedged into the middle of a cleft in the rock. It is all volcanic rock, too, the kind that we refered to as “Pudding Stone” when we encountered it beside Lake Superior. Pudding Stone is made up of lava rock and older, stronger rocks that are caught up in the downpour. In this case, some kind of madness created an gash in the rock, and this is where some monks decided to build their temple. Surrounding the temple are hundreds of little stone towers–some of them constructed and some of them balanced, precariously, on any flat surface available.

Little towers of rock are made while making prayers. The devotee makes a prayer and puts a rock on the tower. I made a prayer and then proceded to wander around the temple, photographing everything I could, and enjoying the glorious scenery. In front of one of the Buddhas, someone left a bag of Butterscotch candy, and little drips from the vines above–daredevil plants that clung to the side of the cavern–plopped on the thing and ran down its sides.

On Sunday, Stephanie and I took off from Seoul and went to Incheon, where I wandered the only Chinatown in Korea, and took a dirty old ferry to a dirty old island that belonged in the Carribean. (By the name of Jakyakdo 작약도.) I really enjoyed it, despite the fact that it was a meager speck of land that had seen better days. That was why I loved it so much. Despite the fact that Incheon is the host of the enormous international airport–the only airport that most people in Korea will ever see–there was no airplane noise, no hint of city on this tiny little jungle. Industrial equiptment, construction cranes, and the hustle and bustle of daily life in Korea could be seen from the shores of this island, but they were far away, lost in the fray of the ocean, which had made sure that this little rock had been completely forgotten by everything.

The night was topped off by the Heritage Ministry Gospel Choir Concert, which once a month has the impervious ability to make me both sob and love my life (and any man with a bit of charisma and a singing voice.) The next morning, I went into Seoul very early and borded a bus for Sokcho, where I am now. It’s been another intreguing adventure, which I will write up after its completed.

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