Korea, Random Rambles
Comments 9

Temporary Insanity?

Or something more chronic?

This was the view entering my school on Friday:

It looked like my third consecutive weekend of miserable weather. Like the others, it was preceded by a few midweek days of glorious sunshine. I felt cheated. I hid in the Fortress of Solitude between spells in the Year 2 bear pits, playing with my camera…

Self-Portrait with Extendable Pointer

…and considering options.

I had to do something, rain or shine. You see, tomorrow I’m going away for two nights/three days WITH 15 TEACHERS AND APPROXIMATELY 350 YEAR 2 STUDENTS ON A SCHOOL TRIP.

Sadly, this is not April Fool’s humour.

I don’t know what I was thinking, except that I thought my (possibly extreme) suffering might make for entertaining reading for you, dear readers. And it’s like this: if I didn’t go, I’d have to take three days of my precious summer vacation leave, as there’ll be no teaching at my main school for those days. And it’s not warm enough yet for any real travel. I’m hanging onto that precious leave.

We’re going north, to Yeongju in North Gyeongsam Province, and points beyond, and I’ll be paid to sit in a bus and get taken to a succession of interesting sites, including a “folk village”, a famous temple and (did I hear this right?) A CHARCOAL MUSEUM. There’s also a visit to an amusement park to balance out all the culture, but I have the option of hitting an art gallery or something if I didn’t get enough fun at the charcoal museum.

Believe me, I don’t know if I’ll regret this — but the odds are better than average. However, I’m the first native English teacher to come on one of these things, and the vice principal assured me I’d get my own digs both nights, while the others have to share. And we even get a bonus $10 per day — not much in the west, but you could (say) get decently drunk for that price over here…

Anyway, I decided to make the most of this weekend just in case. And when the rain cleared yesterday, I knew I’d done the right thing. I made my second trip to Haeundae, Korea’s most famous beach (still haven’t posted the report from the first trip). It was windy but that glorious sun:

I cleared the last of the seagulls and followed the cute dog north, out of town…

..and into Dalmaji, the “moon viewing” forest with its excellent paths (no, I don’t know how you view the moon from a pine forest either):

pine forest hikers

At Cheongsapo, the little fishing village just north, I took this shot in the ceiling mirrors of Angel-in-us, a big cafe chain. It was my first visit, and the coffee is good:

My destination was Seongju, Korea’s second- or third-most famous beach (they like lists over here). I like it here — more laidback, though the town was overrun with drunken young people this time. That would be a menacing scenario  in many countries, but here they’re just noisy:

I stayed again in a love hotel. I’m becoming quite the connoisseur. This one was from the ‘V’ chain — and the most expensive yet at $70 (Saturday rates):

My aim was to return to Haedon Yonggungsa, a 14th-century temple and one of the few situated on the rocks right on the water’s edge. I wanted some more shots of sunrise from this dramatic locale, since I’d loved it there last time.

The kids, full of cheap Hite beer, shouted and sang and chanted all night. They were still going this morning when I got up at 4:45 for the walk north.

The wind had died and dawn was, yet again, spectacular:

Scaffolding is being erected for the upcoming Buddha’s Birthday celebrations:

Camellias are coming into bloom…

..and when I lucked upon a wonderful forest path leading back to Haeundae, I found the woods glowing here and there with sprays of new azaleas:

Approaching Haeundae, I stopped in at another branch of Angel-in-us (a pun on “Angelina’s”?). This was the best latte I’ve had in Korea — at last! — and apparently their supplier, from the Pacific North-West, has won awards in categories including “All-Day-Drinking Coffee” and “Six-Cups-a-Day Coffee”!

That sort of lifestyle would mean adios, sleep for me — but it might just be worth it:

I was very tired, but this third coffee would get me home. I was soon back on the sand, where sand-sculpture contests were underway, and I followed the cute dogs back towards the station:

This was my 36th hike in Korea. I can’t wait to edit these pictures and do a proper trip report after I get back.

If I get back. I’m packing some pepper spray just in case…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Don’t knock charcoal – you should remember from your time here how important it has been historically and the methods used to make it (you may recall the remains of the charcoal maker’s huts on the trail from Mt. Mitsumine to Kumotori) Plus the fact your townie pupils probably think it grows on trees…

    • No, I don’t think my students have ever heard of “trees”. I do recall those charcoal-industry ruins. I was sort of half-joking about the charcoal — hope they give out sample bags!

  2. Trees – your primary source of concealment and cover when you’re in the infantry, so you’d better get used to the idea, kids!

  3. Carl Young says

    I join the tide of your followers in calling for more respect for charcoal. You are so out of touch with the community!

    • I stand chastened and contrite. Obviously an explosive issue. As penance, tonight I’m heating my room with the finest charcoal money can buy. And I don’t even have a fireplace.

  4. 36 hikes? You’ve only been there three months haven’t you? You’re the world’s busiest man! Angel-in-us coffee? That really doesn’t sound right. Haven’t they heard of some sort of fake Italian name? I hope you knocked off one of those mugs though. It’s a sort of interesting souvenir…

    • The thought did cross my mind…but I probably have enough useless crap. Yes, I’m trying to do at least a couple of walks a week — nothing like what you do on weekends, mostly; some of them are more rambles or photographic excursions that bona fide hikes, and a lot of them are urban. I want 100 under my belt before I depart (be it on a stretcher or in a box…).

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