Monday, October 30, 2006

Songnisan National Park Riding

Here are a few pictures of a five day trip I just finished. I took a bus to the center of South Korea last Thursday to meet Gordon, already on the road, and spent the days hiking and riding back to Jinju.

It's fall.

Persimmon trees are everywhere, and they are ready to harvest.

After they get them off the trees, they tie them up to dry. We were gifted fresh persimmons and apples by many a farmer on the trip.

Walking back to the park gate late in the day after a hike.

Gord naping in the last light of day. The weather is perfect for hiking and biking, but it gets cold at night. Fortunately I have sweet sleeping bag from China that keeps me warm in my tent. Gord was not so lucky with his gear.

Fall colours riding back to Jinju.

On top of Songnisan. Obviously it was a difficult hike if hikers of this magnitude were making it too the top.

A construction sign apparently advocating child labour? Or, at least showing the influence of anime.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

bike shop guy

Those who cycle and often find themselves living in new locales know the importance of finding a bike shop guy. You know, a guy to keep you in parts and - more importantly - to take you out into the country side and show you where all the good riding is.

Finally found one here in Jinju. Myeong-gook owns and runs his one-man shop downtown.

We went out on the back roads for the day, and
late in the afternoon ended up at a temple where we were invited in for tea by some kindly monks. It was a good day.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Turns out Jinju is famous for bullfighting.

a stadium

the standoff

the fans

the spectators

and the Winner

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Finally back on the road.

Autumn festival just passed in Korea (Chuseok), and we had a four day weekend to celebrate.

Gord and I went on a cycling/hiking tour of the area north of JinJu. We visited two National Parks, summited two peaks and cycled a couple hundred kilometers through the country side. We stayed in a Zen Temple, camped on a riverside, and spend a night at a JimJil Bang. It was a trip with a lot of firsts for me in Korea. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Korea in the coming weeks.

We stayed at Haeinsa Temple. It's another UNESCO world heritage kind of place in Gaya San National Park. They keep a hundred thousand or so of these 500 year old wooden blocks that some monks made to print Buddhist Sutras. We attended the evening chanting, and woke up to the gong at 3 am for more chanting and meditating. It was a really great experience.

We summited Gayasan on the first day after cycling to the park. A nice peak with a good view of the valleys below.

Too cool for school.

On the second day we left the park to cycle 70 k to the next park. Note the Autumn colours! I realized I haven't experienced autumn in three years (Taiwan being tropical/sub-tropical).

This pagoda was just across the bridge. I was just stepping off the bridge when I saw a small brown snake at my feet. I stepped quickly to the right and found myself standing over a much bigger snake with bright green, blue, and red markings. I jumped up in the air at the same time that it lunged at me and managed to get a few steps away. To be honest, it was not the lightning fast lunge that you might be imagining. It was fairly early morning, and I think the snakes were warming themselves in the sun. They weren't in top form anyway.

Yellowing rice fields along the way.

We found a great campsite just outside of the second park set against a natural waterfall.

Gord raided the apple orchirds in the morning for breakfast. That apple was almost as big as my head.

The third day we hiked 9 k on a deserted trail to summit a mountain that turned out to have a gondola on the other side! This is what that looks like. Gord is indicating that this is the seventh National Park he has visited. He's trying to visit all 20 National Parks in the country and climb their respective peaks.

After the hike, we rode into the nearest town and checked into a JimJil Bang. They must be a phenomenon unique to Korea. It's often called a Sauna, but it includes hot baths of differing temperatures as well, including a refrigerated pool. The unique part is that after bathing for a couple hours, you can retire to common rooms where everyone passes out on thin mats for the night. These places are full of families passing through town, so it's an interesting atmosphere, made more interesting by the fact that everyone is wearing matching cotton shorts and t-shirts. There was a restaurant, big screen televisions, and coin operated computers located among the common rooms. Good times.

And finally, a portrait of my bike. Two of these carvings (male and female) were traditionally found outside of every village to ward of evil spirits. But, these two were just looking good on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

And that was that.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Lantern Festival

I've been really lazy with posting stuff recently. This trend might continue for awhile.

But, here are some pictures from the opening of Jinju's annual Lantern Festival. I have to say that it pales in comparison to Taiwan's National Lantern Festival that I attended a couple of years back in Tainan... It's a similar Idea though, but this one's only a local festival. It corresponds with the fall festival Choosuk, which is starting later this week.

Basically everyone goes down to the waterfront across from JinJu Castle/Fortress to look at these big "lanterns" (more like parade floats) on the river. There are hundreds of snack vendors catering to the masses, which is nice because there's usually not much variety in the food we eat at the cafeteria.

The next three weeks are pretty wide open. Today (Monday) we are giving a test to our students, tomorrow is a national holiday (Foundation Day), and Thursday and Friday are part of Choosuk. Most students are going home tomorrow, but we will probably teach a few of them on Wednesday. When I say teach, I mean get paid to go out to dinner and drinks with them. Next week we have a full load, but the week following that is midterm week. We've got a whole week off to... do something. I was thinking about going to Japan or Taiwan, but I'm leaning towards doing something in Korea. I'll only be here for a short time, so it seems silly to head off for the only real time off we will have between now and December.