Monday, July 1, 2013

A Trip to the Valley

Despite the fact that I've gone somewhere every weekend for the past month I was feeling the itch to get out of town last weekend.  The summer heat has set in so something refreshing sounded ideal, preferably with water included.  I've heard from many students and friends about weekends in the valley so figured I should take advantage of these magical places and go find one for myself.  I recruited my friend Sara (always up for an adventure) to join me, and also asked Shaun if he wanted to tag along.  
Welcome to 문경

Seeing as I had come up with the idea and extended the invite I figured I should at least try to figure out exactly where it was we were going, and how to get there. We debated going Friday night for an early Saturday start but after realizing we could take the train chose to just leave early Saturday.  So at 8am I was out the door and on my way to pick up Shaun on my scooter, he's very trusting, just kidding i'm an awesome driver.  Sara got on the train in Waegwan so we met her on the train and about an hour and a half later found ourselves in Mungyeong.  This is where the fun began, first we got directions to the bus terminal from a sweet girl at the CU, through our semi-retarded Korean and her better than she probably thinks it is English.  Finding the terminal was easy enough but the next bus to 벌바외 (where the internet told us we needed to go) wasn't for another hour and a half.  We chose to find lunch and wander the city before returning for what was hopefully the bus that would take us to the valley.  Sara was in the mood for Nangmyeon so after a few failed attempts we found a shop serving it, along with Konguksu, my new favorite summer dish.  The man in charge was friendly and eager to talk to us, then upon discovering we were all from America excited to show us his New York and California drivers license.  Still confused as to where the "Koreans aren't friendly" stereotype came from.

So the bus finally showed up and we were just about the only passengers on board, along with a very cheerful and energetic driver, who handed out high fives as we got on.  Although we weren't exactly sure what the next step would be after this the day was turning out to be quite successful thus far.  The bus soon filled with hoards of ajummas and ajusshis on the way home from their Saturday market ventures.  I'm willing to bet this was their big trip to town for the week as when they got off the bus we seemed to be in the middle of no where, quite peaceful though.  We stopped for about ten minutes in Gaeun, where I thought the bus driver was trying to cook us as he turned off the aircon and left us.  I spotted him below my window at one point where he proceeded to make heart signs and blow me kisses, never a dull moment in Korea. 

There was also a crew of boys with a cooler, backpacks and plenty of snacks in tow so we figured they might be headed to the same destination as us.  They seemed to be a bit lost as they attempted to get off the bus at one point only to have an ajumma scold them for doing so, instructing them to wait another stop, at which point they got off - again seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  We finally reached our destination and luckily spotted a sign for the valley, 500m in the direction we had just come from. Thankfully our bus driver loved us, told us to get back on and dropped us right at the road down to the valley, only requesting 과자 [snacks] as we departed the bus, sorry for him but we didn't have any. 

I was thinking we'd have to do a bit of hiking to reach the valley but boy was I wrong, a short walk down the driveway and there we were.  It was kind of amusing how many people were squashed together for the first 100m of the valley, I guess they figured that was all there was.  We on the other hand, decided to go for a bit of a walk and found a nice area that we could claim all to ourselves.  새완하다  = the perfect expression for how entering the valley water felt "ahhh so refreshing" is a close translation.  My first toe dip into the water sent chills up my back but once I was in it felt amazing.  There were a few slides, deeper pools, and even a baby waterfall that I made into a natural shoulder massage.  A perfect combination of sun and shade along with the cool water made for the perfect rest spot for the afternoon. Shaun and I took a walk down the valley to explore and came across a man who appeared to be cleaning a rock, really that's the only logical explanation I can come up with. He was using his shoe to continually throw water on this big rock and then proceeded to rub it, we were slightly confused.  As we returned to our spot we noticed two Korean boys, about our age, greasing each other up with tanning oil. I first thought they were wearing speedos but no they had just rolled their shorts up to extremely high lengths.  Now if you know anything about Korea this scene draws all kinds of confusion, generally Koreans do anything they can to stay OUT of the sun so again, we were confused. 

As the sun started to disappear behind the treat line and I felt like I was sitting in a wet diaper, we decided it was time to make some moves.  After a quick change, in the disgusting pit toilet, we made our way back towards the bus stop to explore the surrounding area (we still had an hour before the bus would be back for us).  We spotted a temple not far from the main road so we figured we'd go check it out, and found that it seemed to be brand new.  I'll always be impressed with the detail and precision put into the paintings on all of these buildings, so beautiful.  As we made our way back to the bus stop a group of men started shouting at us, and from what I could pick out, were trying to explain that there was a waterfall about an hour in the opposite direction.  It sounded tempting but as the last bus was about to come we had to pass, unless those men also wanted to give us a place to stay for the night?  Before catching the bus we devoured a delicious Paejeon at an adorable cafe near the bus stop, but before long we were on our journey back home. Bus to train to scooter totaling roughly three hours of transportation, not terrible but i'm still working on that teleportation power. 

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