Korea, Streams, Creeks & Rivers, Urban Walking
Comments 8

A Riverbank Sunrise, a Rice Paddy Breakfast

A few minutes’ walk from my place, the frisky ponies frolicking down Daecheong Creek that I described in the last post are corralled in concrete, broken in and tamed into prancing show ponies. The Daecheong from that point is a sad and languid canal that slumps obediently towards the ocean near Busan, its sides and banks liberally strewn with trash, its momentum disrupted with spillovers and channels and detours through pipes. Hard to believe it’s the same waterway.

Well, it ain’t much but it’s all that I have, and if there’s one skill I’ve mastered in my 16 months in Korea, it’s finding pockets of beauty and almost-wildness in the unlikeliest of places. I might bitch about what they’ve done (and are doing: for months now those concrete banks have been the playground of Big Orange Machines and the men who ride them), but I’ve spent many dozens of hours walking those banks, taken hundreds of pictures of the poor sad creek and its environs. Sometimes I almost love it, I think. I mean, at least it’s not a highway or, I don’t know, a string of nasty factories…

Anyway, I’m always looking for new variations in my creek-bank peregrinations, and last Saturday I got up early to walk it into the sunrise. I was returning to a ridge near Yulha where I’d lost my favourite sunglasses the weekend before in a trackless bushwhack. It occurred to me I’d never seen the river up close at dawn. Suddenly I had a new adventure to enliven my Saturday.

Just down from my apartment, I was delighted to see the sun bobbing above the road parallelling the river:


I cross this road to reach the Daecheong

The road, too, was quiet and almost deserted, where usually I’m dodging cars. And the creek itself was at its best in this, the photographer’s Golden Hour:


Looking upstream – note the new banks!


The way ahead & B.O.M tracks


Poets rhapsodise about the famed Daecheong Sunrise


What every creek needs: orange floaties

At this point the views begin to open up. Jumping the last drain, clearing the last eyesore bridge, I was close to farmland:


Dawn Reflections

I cleared the crumbing old residences, some still inhabited…


Abandoned houses along the bank

..and crossed the creek where a new bridge is going in…


Looking back towards the source

..to swing right, towards Yulha — and the bleak construction zone where the Highway God cometh:


A magpie points the way to Yulha

The smell of animal shit hung fragrant on the morning breeze. Pig, cow, chicken — or a heady blend? Anyway, you know how the aroma of cowshit can be almost pleasant, conjuring images of kitchen gardens and farmers in rubber boots and floppy hats? Well, this wasn’t like that. Freshly applied to the paddies near Yulha, its stink grew eye-wateringly strong as I got closer.

I stopped in at a convenience store and grabbed some breakfast essentials. It was too early to find a real coffee and I had to make do with the mass-produced, iced variety. I grabbed another for later when my morning buzz would wear off, and trotted down to the edge of the paddies.

The sun was up and a beautiful, blue-skied day was underway. Despite the trash at its fringes, and the smell, I always enjoy this open stretch of rural Korea with Big Ass Mountain lording proudly over it at the far side.

A community work party was getting started — it looked like seedlings were being prepared for planting…


Work Party

..but I didn’t want to hover too close, and went down a farm road, passed by a couple of locals…


Bike Man


Late for Work

..found a piece of wood to sit on next to the paddies, where purple clover crew along a low embankment, stretched out my legs towards the distant theme-park construction, and laid out my breakfast spread:


Breakfast Views

I felt really, really content and at ease: my day had barely started and I’d already buried all memory of a couple of awful workdays. The caffeine lifted me even higher; soon I was talking with my girlfriend in New York.

Another work party in progress

Another work party in progress

It was late afternoon over there. After our chat I was ready for action, but made the most of the tail end of Golden Hour…


The Narrow Road to Lotte World

Farm Reflections

Farm Reflections


The ridge & the construction at its base


Yulha Reflected

..before aiming once more at the ridge, gaining gradual height through the ragged little village in its shadow…


Ever have the feeling you’re being watched?


Heading to the Hills, Observed by Local

….and then dodging the new road, with its DO NOT ENTER signs, its dozing dozers and its ever-trucking trucks, to begin the real work of the day.

I never found the sunglasses, but I didn’t really care.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Super post. Love this: “a sad and languid canal that slumps obediently towards the ocean”. Classic Goat. The essay is submitted and I am grabbing a few study free days before the real work starts on the dissertation.

    • Thanks, Rachael! Well, your diligence (they love this word in Korea though a great many of my students seem to struggle with putting it into practice) is an inspiration! Bravo!

      I notice you’re “shooting” bugs again — hunting season is here! I am still delaying buying that macro because there are rumours abroad that a pretty damned fast (and expensive) macro for the NEX is in the works for this year. Meanwhile, I finally realised that the little waterproof Cybershot compact I brought to Korea but hadn’t used here (thinking I’d forgotten the charger) is in fact fully useable. It has a macro setting, so I now carry that with me as well for insects and for when it rains. Nothing remotely close to your results, but it’s fun to chase and yesterday I even videoed a big fat beetle as it ran over the rocks.

      Followed the Daecheong up into the hills again yesterday and managed to walk its bed and banks to its source as a tiny trickle. That was so much fun…

  2. That’s a lovely, clear sunny day you had there. Imagine what you could capture when you get to escape the Korean industrial wasteland. I guess the clock is ticking now? It’s almost June!

    • Yep, and on Day 3 today of a long weekend with the same kind of weather. Must say I love every minute of my free days (and afternoons on working days). Meanwhile, yes, the clock is on voerdrive. Was just talking to Kate and it’s 12 weeks and five days till I see her again — then it’s a mere few months till the end of this adventure (if they don’t fire me first)!

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