Thursday, May 13, 2010

back in seoul

when i woke up this morning with the urge to claw out my own eyes, I realized I was going to have to take an allergy pill, although my hippie nature has avoided it so far. So now, although my itchy eyes and compulsive sneezing has subsided, I've been going through the day in somewhat of a drugged haze. this entry is going to be relatively short, therefore, because i was stoned all day and napped through a big chunk of it. that's my dilemma: either suffer mad allergies or sleep.

Pyeongchang - there's something eerie about waking up at a ski resort that is mostly closed because it's the off season. The beautiful and brand new hotel is minimally staffed right now to keep costs low during the off-season (meaning they opened up the gym just for me and my dad beacuse no one else was using it). The lack of guests and empty halls remind me uncomfortably of the hotel from the Shining, but I try not to think about that. I look at the snowless ski hills and try to picture them filled with people in the winter. Pyeongchang is trying a third consecutive time to bid for the Winter Olympics. I think they're going to run into some trouble with white people mistaking their city for Pyongyang.

This is also the first hotel in Korea that I've been to that doesn't feature a karaoke bar. They're going to have to install one if they get the Olympics - people have certain expectations, especially about Asia.

Today we went to Sorak Mountain (설악산) located in the Soraksan Nature Reserve, one of the most beautiful parks in Korea. It's just incredible to see: anxiety-inducing heights (especially for the acrophobic), heights at which the treetops look like heads of broccoli. So many chains of mountains...Also, Korea doesn't seem to have the plethora of personal injury civil lawsuits that North America has, so they have all sorts of tort-y trails up the mountains where schoolkids scramble all over the bare rocks at the mountain peaks, completely unguarded by any rails or any safety measure. it's kind of frightening and totally awesome. These mountains once served as a fortress against the Mongolian hordes, and are not easy to least I thought it was difficult since it left me out of breath, but there were a lot of halmunis scurrying past me, so either i'm out of shape or korean grandmas are wickedly in shape here.

We had lunch at a seaside restaurant called Dolsum in Sokcho, one of those places where they had all sorts of creatures swimming in the tanks in front, sort of like a tragic zoo. Although my own diet these days has been mostly vegetarian due to the fact that I don't eat seafood, my family has been overwhelmed by these rich five-course meals. I'm not sure how we're going to go back to single course, single meat meals.

What I enjoyed the most was watching ocean in front of the restaurant. My favourite science fiction author, Stanislaw Lem, wrote a novel about a planet whose ocean was a live being, a god-like organism. whenever i watch the ocean, whether it's here in Korea or in Newfoundland or Vancouver, I could see where someone could formulate that theory. there's something absorbing about watching the ocean pulse, moving in and out and in and out in a hypnotic rhythm....

well, we're finally back in Seoul, where we'll stay for the remainder of our trip here. It's nice to be reunited with the rest of my luggage, and Scary Bear (who is a bit squished and angry about being in storage again), and especially with our laundry machine. I've been wearing rice on my sweater for several days now, after I had a chopstick mishap and spilled my rice dish on myself.