Korea, Urban Walking
Comments 6

A Jangyu Dawn Trilogy #3: Rice Paddy Ramblin’

Yesterday I woke even earlier for my Sunday ramble — ridiculously early, even for me — and hit the street before the first sunbeams. Thumped zombie-fashion down to the Yulha again, ambled its banks (where the coreopsis thickets that featured in the last post are starting to die off), climbed to the road and down to the rice paddy edges, dodged the odd early-starting dump-truck driver heading to or from the highway construction scarring the valley walls, took a few halfhearted shots of spiders and reflections and finally admitted that I didn’t know where the hell I was heading.

I need to know my mission before bed or I’ll squander my morning wandering in ever-decreasing circles till I’ve dug myself into a muddy hole.

Anyway, I sat down on a farm track gazing at the Red Bridge reflected in the newly planted paddies. Talked a while to Kate on the phone; sipped from a can of once-cold coffee. Big Ass Mountain loomed over me on my right; trucks and earth-movers of various species roared above. Then I started walking with sharpening focus along the mountain’s base — as well as being the tallest lump of rock in the local landscape, it’s long and rumpled and I’d never walked its far side. So I had my mission: to circle it on foot via roads. Surely a few hours’ worth of entertainment.

Ten hours later I was sitting in a pavilion draining a $1 Budweiser and examining the swarm of bleeding scratches on my  calves. Things had gotten interesting. After evading all that heavy machinery I finally reached the wide and reedy Nakdong River, looped around to the unexplored side of B.A., found myself in a vast and dusty wasteland where a lone temple stood firm while all about it men and machines were bashing out a new industrial estate, strolled through with well-practised nonchalance expecting to be chased out, made it through unscathed and un-squashed, ran outta road, started climbing, ran outta path, bushwhacked through dense, head-high grass and shrubs wondering about poisonous snakes and why life had to be so damned interesting, made it at last to the top of my mountain and discovered it wasn’t the top. And that it wasn’t even my mountain.

Yup. I’d climbed the wrong one. What’s worse, the one I’d climbed was a sliver of its former self: scenes of construction carnage, raw earth, another nascent road being gouged up and over the col on which I stood. A big pile of wooden crates stuffed with (I think) brand-new halogen lightbulbs, hundreds of ’em. Toy excavators and dump-trucks at play far below. I was way disoriented, gazing down on a rising cluster of apartments I’d never seen from this angle.

At last I worked out my position — Big Ass lies where a tangle of ridges intersect — and with a weary groan resumed climbing. And resumed bushwhacking. Made it to a familiar ridge and decided, screw it, I’d save some time, bushwhack some more down the other side to the familiar sanctuary of the Yulha paddies. Dumbness loves company. The mountainside was steep and slidey (just made that word up) and even with an improvised walking stick it was nerve-wracking, skidding from tree to shrub to rock, losing my second (and last) pair of sunglasses ($275 worth — a gift from 2008 that had served me well) to that imperious mountain, which seems to demand tributes in return for its dubious hospitality.

But at last I was standing on level ground, acres of the stuff, and then skirting paddies bouncing lethal sunbeams back at the sky, squinting through my sunglasseslessness,  cheek scratched, legs far reduced in prettiness, tired and ready for a nap, kinda sick of it all. And I was back, also — not quite mission accomplished but anyway back — in the rice paddies where I’d started, the paddies this post was supposed to be about.

These shots are from a month or so worth of paddy-skirting in Yulha and beyond. Nice country — nice and flat…


B.A. Mtn One Weird, Hazy Morning


Greenhouse & Bales


A Weedy Verge & Dead Man’s Peak


Ready for Planting


Colour in the Verges, Yulha


Cornered in Yulha


Apartments Sprouting from the Mud


Shovel at Rest & B.A. Mtn


Roadworks Ridge & Mts Perky & Pert, left


Crude Fencing


Dr Seuss Bug & Planter


Self-Portrait with Green Tomato & Vitamin Drink Bottle


Farmer’s Footprints


A Stroll in the Garden


Blue Skies, Yulha


Looking Back


Straw Hat Weather


Morning Traffic


Ladybird Get-Together


A Favourite Tree, Yulha


Mechanised Planting


Berry Harvest


~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Sue says

    If I got lost walking in the bush like you I would just cry… I find it quite stressful to read about… I find myself skim-reading ahead to make sure you made it out!! I love all these rice paddy photos. The self portrait is odd but it suits you. ‘Blue Skies Yulha is beautiful to me… but a sort of sci-fi beauty with those matching sky-scrapers next to farm land… so strange. Thanks.

    • I’ve never really been worried about not knowing exactly where I am in Korea as I don’t think it’s really possible to get dangerously lost here (well, maybe in Seoul). The closest I get to crying is Thursday mornings as I approach my second school. Well, Monday mornings are pretty bleak as well…

      Sci-fi beauty: yes! And the self-portrait: I’m always looking for variations to keep myself amused. Walking alone all the time, I need to jazz things up occasionally.

  2. Ten hours? That’s ugly and even worse is the sunglasses! Man, I’d be suicidal if I lost a decent pair like that. I did lose a polarizer last year and that pushed me close to the edge!

    Do these farmers give you strange looks or have a chat whilst you’re lurking around their fields? Mm… That hazy morning does look a little weird. Pollution…?

    • I finally buckled and bought a $65 pair! Just could not stand it, with all the road-walking I do. Would you believe it’s very hard to find cheap wraparounds in Korea, the land of cheapo shit? In fact shades are seldom worn here — I suspect we blue-westerners suffer more than the dark-eyed locals. Anyway I hope I get my money’s worth before they end up in an unmarked forest grave as well…

      The farmers seem to be warming to me. Sometimes they speak, knowing full well I don’t get a word — and I don’t THINK they are telling me to begone! That light: I’ve struck it a few times lately. Quite atmospheric, not quite mist, just a weird early-morning haze perhaps due to the warm air or something. Although directly behind that mountain at some distance is gritty, grimy Busan, so that could be a factor.

  3. Hi, I enjoyed looking through your blog! I live in Gimhae at the moment but on Friday I’m moving to Jangyu, Deacheong. Some one told me you lived in this area and recommended your blog, if you have some time to reply I’d love to know what it’s like. Also, how do you get to Busan from there? Thank you so much!

    • Hey, sorry it’s taken so long to reply but I was returning to Korea from the States when I got your comment, and then jet lag put me out of commission for another day.

      I live in the neighborhood you’re moving to. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s quiet — for Korea anyway. Jangyu overall is, well, boring, and not pretty. Very boring indeed, and very, very not-pretty. But I don’t go to bars etc. if you do, you might find it a little more fun. I also don’t eat at restaurants here, but I can confidently rate every coffee joint within a five-mile radius if you’re interested! They range from awful to tolerable, but I’m notoriously picky. If you like walking, I can help with the local mountains and places to stroll. Pretty much all I do here outside work hours is walk; hike; take pictures of bugs, flowers, waterfalls or trash; and waste time in cafes.

      As for getting to Busan, I always get the number 21 bus to Royal Tomb of King Suro station, then the light rail into town. There is also a local bus stop for the express bus to Seoul I can help you with if you like. Any other questions, feel free to ask!

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