Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Well, my cold is gone and now instead my allergies are in full swing. I’ve been doing my best to enjoy the rest of this trip anyway, even though I’m not quite sure where we went today. I kept asking my mom, but she just kept saying “East”. I thought at first she was being cryptic, but I’m thinking now that she doesn’t know either. I’m not sure any of us knows where we are or where we’re going, but the trip has been quite pleasant nevertheless.

We left Gyeongju, the 1000 year old city where the hotels have Buddhist readings instead of bibles in their bedside drawers, and visited the nearby village Yangdong, which reminded me a bit of Nova Scotia’s Peggy Cove, just in the sense that it’s quaint, quiet, historic, and tourists climb all over the properties of people who live there, people who must be tired of the tourists. It’s as though time stopped in this village – the houses are all old style, some of them like several hundred years old. Mom says she used to live in houses like this before she moved to Canada in the 70s. I imagine it must have been quite the changing, going from living in these old style Korean homes to…storefront apartments in downtown Toronto.

But they have modernized in some ways – like the power tools in the front yards. There is a sort of weirdness in seeing satellite dishes and outhouses in the same place.

There are some absolutely beautiful spots in Korea, especially along the coastline. I’ve been calling it Crabland in my head since I’m not sure exactly what towns we visited, and because crabs are the main stars around here – the oceanside snow crab restaurant we went to, the parks with all the giant statues of crabs, too bad I don’t eat crabs.

why i don't eat crabs: they stare at you.

We took a train from town I didn’t know the name of to another town I didn’t know the name of. We had a wonderfully scenic view, and I especially enjoyed it because I got to have some beer while looking at it, and we all know there’s nothing more delicious than train beer. We passed flooded rice fields after rice fields. We passed surfers in the ocean who waved to us. We passed by gorgeous beaches, including the one where they shot scenes from the famous classic Korean drama, Morashigae, which I remember vividly because when I was a kid in the 90s, my friends would sleep over at my house but instead of hanging out with me, they would watch Morashigae with my parents. We also passed a North Korean submarine.

My favourite sight from traveling through the countryside are the mountains. I love mountains and we all know that living in Toronto and Ottawa, I’m totally deprived of them. My dad says that the mountains here are different from the Rocky Mountains that I’m used to from the North American west coast. The Korean ones are older, and therefore not as tall or sharp, but just layered and majestic. I’m really going to miss them when I go home.

We eventually ended up in the city of Gangneung. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry - neither have I. It somewhat has the look of St. John’s, Newfoundland, in a way, just in terms of the candy stripe houses (is that the right term, Ryan?) and the lack of any substantial skyscrapers, and the oceanside feel of being a city without being one obnoxiously so – still friendly, still livable.

We ate dinner at this restaurant just outside of the city – seriously in the middle of nowhere, so there’s no way I’ll be able to find it again, but I do know that you have to maneouver a bus through ridiculously terrifyingly narrow roads with steep rice field ditches on either side. I wonder if this is why these buses have seatbelts. But the food, served in a house which apparently was built in 1721, was amazing. Full of mountain plants, picked by the owner herself at 5:30AM, grown organically in the adjacent fields with no pesticides – the owner called it “the stable served by the earth”. It’s going to be hard to go back home. I feel like here, so many things seem more real: the mountains are more magnificent, the vegetables fresher, the maguli boozier, the kimchi spicier…

so much banchan!

mom says all this can be turned to booze.