There was torrential rain last night and this morning, and it’s been wet all day. It was wet enough to cause a fun run due to take place this morning in GEC (Global Education City) to be postponed.
I don’t know if was the rain that brought this little beastie out onto the pavement. According to my investigations, it’s a ‘land planarium’, Apparently, they’re predatory on earthworms.
It is getting cooler. It was tropical five weeks ago, and although it’s still mid-20s during the day, it’s dropped to around 16 degrees C at night. There are still cicadas and crickets, but they’re not as noisy as they were a few weeks ago. Lots of people have told how the wind makes it feel so cold in winter, so I’m enjoying the warmth while it lasts.
Do you remember the time when spam was a kind of processed meat? Well, in Korea, that’s still true. We’ve noticed it in the supermarkets but Edward spotted an interesting link on the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24140705) that has prompted me to write something on my blog about it.
We had the annual Chuseok (mid-Autumn) national holiday last week, and according to the BBC, gifts of Spam are quite common at Chuseok. So, here’s a photo I took in the bus station in the small town of Haenam as we passed through: for travellers who need a present for their relatives, gift packs of Spam. It seems to be a legacy of the Korean War – another US cultural export which is still going strong 60 years on.
For those who subscribe to my blog, I hope the e-mail about this post doesn’t end up in your trash folder…
We spent a day walking in the Duryunsan Provincial Park, a couple of short bus rides away from Mihwangsa. There’s a temple near the entrance to the park, where we sat in a tea house before we started the climb into the hills. As we’ve seen elsewhere, piling rocks into cairns in and around temples, or onto ledges of statues, seems to be the thing to do.
The climb takes you through the trees. It’s near the end of September but it’s still very hot and there are plenty of mosquitos around, making any stop a mixed blessing. Our first objective is the Bukmireukam Hermitage high above the main temple complex, and with a big Buddha statue carved into the rock as the focus.
A few minutes after reaching Bukmireukam, we’re standing on a huge rock and taking in the view. Above us on one side there’s a ridge with outcrops of rock sticking above the trees. In the other direction, the land falls away to the rice paddies and then the sea. It’s a real treat: Here we are in Jeollanam Province in the very south-west of Korea, in a place I didn’t know existed until very recently, and it’s glorious.
Some of the best travel experiences are unexpected. A Korean family joined us on the rock and asked us to join them for lunch. So, we sit down and the family start to unpack a feast from their backpacks. There’s rice, kimchi, chilli pastes, vegetables, garlic, dried fish and lots more. It tastes great and is far more substantial than the rather inadequate convenience-store cake we’d packed. The only English speaker in the family says it’s a Korean tradition to share food with others. We’re very grateful.
Well fed, we climbed up to the peak, looking down to the coast line to the east and the west. The higher part of the climb is over big boulders, and there are ropes, chains and metal plates fixed to the rocks to help the climber. It’s only 700 metres at the top, but it’s a challenge. It would have been much more so had it not been for the meal provided by complete strangers.
We stayed in a Buddhist temple on Wednesday night, set on the wooded slopes of Dharma Mountain. The setting was spectacular, with the jagged peaks of the mountains to the east and views down to the sea and scattered islands to the west. The atmosphere was one of quiet calmness. Big black and yellow butterflies flapped around bold red flowers in the hot sunshine. It did seem like an idyll set apart from the rest of the world.
We were taught what to do in the temple, how to do a half bow (from the waist) and a full bow (kneeling with foreheads on the ground). We were taught how to sit for meditation – crossed legs, a straight back, fingers making an ‘O’ in front of abdomens, looking at a point on the floor in front of us – and how to breath in order to help forget all distracting thoughts, but I knew that when the time came the discomfort of sitting on the floor with crossed legs wasn’t going to allow me to take any steps towards enlightenment.
It being Chuseok, we joined the other temple guests and the monks and made songpyeon, traditional rice cakes with sweet fillings. They were then steamed and served covered with the pine needles we’d prepared earlier.
We were woken at 4:00AM the next morning for chanting and meditation. I can appreciate some aspects of Buddhism – putting aside of the cares of the world in order to find some inner peace – but other aspects make me suspicious. Why is it necessary to attribute all sorts of supernatural capabilities to various god-like figures? Why does it seem to attract such superstitions? Indeed, some of the precepts seem like an attempt to deny our humanity, throwing out the good with the bad.
After breakfast, we walked to the top of the mountain, with clear views across the hills to the sea to east and west. The lady who showed us how to start the climb told us to keep to the path – there are snakes and other creatures that bite in the forest.
Of course there are snakes, even in Paradise.
We’ve just been away for four days, for the Chuseok holiday. Chuseok is the Korean mid-Autumn holiday, a harvest festival when people get together with their families and share a meal together. We took a trip to the mainland, the first time we’ve left Jeju since we arrived, and I’ll post some of my holiday photos over the next few days.
So, we took a ferry to Wando, a fishing town in the south west of Korea. The coast here is dotted with islands, sometimes interconnected with each other and the mainland by bridges. Indeed, Wando is on an island and we watched ferries come and go all the time as we ate lunch overlooking the harbour on our way back to Jeju today. There are all sorts of opportunities for exploration in the future.
As you can see, fishing is a big industry, and there were fish drying in the sun, and for sale in the shops and in the restaurants. It’s still very hot here and the skies have been mostly cloudless for the last few days, so it seems perfect weather to dry the seafood. It wasn’t only fish in Wando – in the flatter areas of land nearby there are large areas of rice, and poly-tunnels, as well as other agricultural products. Nothing goes to waste, it seems…
We saw bundles of this crop laying on the road and propped up against the stone walls in the village of Hangwon-ri on Sunday morning, so stopped for a few minutes to explore and take some pictures. We’ve seen the crop set out to dry often enough before but I still don’t know what it is. The photo on the right shows the detail – I don’t know if it’s the seeds in the seed-heads that are harvested.
There’s a notice with something about history of the village, from which I quote below. If I understand correctly, it refers to a time in the middle of the 20th century.
“After it was made, a geomancy man argued that the coastal area was weak in fengshui, which would bring about poverty in the village. In order to prevent this disaster, pine trees were planted in Modom hills. However, fire lumps came down from the sky, causing a fire and goblins came to the village, making the cows collapse. In order to prevent the disaster, the villagers built towers and afterwards nothing bad happened and they lived peacefully.”
Another common sight is drying chillies spread in the sun. This load was set out on a cloth a few hundred metres further on.
We had lunch in a little café overlooking Chagwido Island (on the right of the picture above) and Wado Island (further left). The sky was blue, the sun was hot, and the sea was sparkling. The café had a big picture window looking westwards over the sea so that we could take it all in as we had our paninis and smoothies. Glorious – that’s somewhere to take visitors, even if the fare isn’t traditional Korean.
The local squid-drying and bike-hire shop just down the road didn’t seem to be doing any business.
One of the features of Jeju is the connected set of walking routes, called Olle trails, that go round most of the island. There are 20 or so, each of a length that can be walked in a day, and generally following the coast. They’re easy to follow as they are marked at close intervals with signposts and blue and orange cloth tags. That’s just as well – we haven’t found any decent maps yet.
Anyway, we did a short section of Olle trail 7 this morning, on the south coast. Most of the south coast is rocky, with cliffs, rock stacks, offshore islands and boulders on the shoreline. There are plenty of signs of Korea’s recent troubled history, and that’s a subject for another day, once I’ve done some research.
Our map tells us which places have been used to shoot scenes in Korean dramas, and Korean people come and have their photo taken in places familiar to them from the TV.
There’s plenty of life on the sea shore, and I’ve not seen anything quite like these shell fish before. I guess they’re a kind of barnacle.
When we went to the temple on Sunday, I also took these photos of butterflies.
Rebecca and Phil – you’re going to have to help me out here. I think I know what some of them are but others are not at all familiar. So, the top ones look like a Comma and a Painted Lady, and that may be a White Admiral below.
It’s the other two I don’t know at all – they’re not native to Bristol. The black one in particular is very large and common.
There’s also another one that I’ve seen often enough, the most impressive of the lot. It just won’t settle at all, never mind settle long enough for me to capture on film. It’s like a Swallowtail (and I guess it is), yellow and with a ‘tail’.
We visited the Sanbanggulsa temple today, at the foot of Sanbangsan Mountain – that’s the mountain in the photo at the top of my blog. We hadn’t set out to see it; we found it by chance.
There’s a temple building next to the road as you enter, with a big golden Buddha statue next to it. You can also walk up the steps through the trees and visit the grotto, in the side of the cliff face.
There are many things I don’t understand about Buddhism – the different statues and what they represent. Worshipers also leave various offerings, and I was intrigued by the little figures of children left at the foot of large statues, with their bald heads and big eyes, and their mixed expressions of piety, longing or irreverence.