When most people come to Korea, they tend to focus their energies on Seoul, perhaps venturing down to Busan or the honeymoon island of Jeju. But, there are plenty of other gems scattered around the peninsula that are quite interesting, and in these places, one can enjoy the quietness of rural Korea sans Japanese tourists and karaoke rooms at every turn. This blog chronicles two recent outings to far-flung corners of South Korea, as well as some recent activity in my city of Daejeon, which also doesn't get a lot of recognition from tourists and brochures.
Boeun, smack in the center of South Korea, is an area known for it's long-living people. I went with the Khim family and Katie, as we set off to discover "what makes [our] mind and body happy." First stop was to see Jeongyipumsong, a pine tree, which is supposedly pretty ancient. Legend has it that when King Sejo was traveling through his kingdom, a branch of this tree was blocking his path. He asked the branch to move, and it did, so the king bestowed a royal title on the tree (basically made the tree a cabinet minister).
Our next stop was to Beopjusa Temple, which was built in 553 AD. The two most distinctive features of this temple are this giant golden Buddha statue and Palsangjeon Hall.
There were also some great carvings on the rocks surrounding the temple.
Another ancient relic was the Samnyeonsanseong Fortress. This was built in the late 5th century, and although it is small compared to some other mountain fortresses in the country, it is very well preserved.
Hapgu Village in Buan County was advertised as being "the" place in Korea to dig up and eat hard clams. Unfortunately, when we were there, it was cold and windy and too early in the season for the clams. But, with the help of some amazingly helpful and patient folks and a genial taxi driver, we found many other things to keep us entertained in this rural area on Korea's western coast.
I had never REALLY wondered about how silk was made, but now I know! We had a super enlightening tour of the Silkworm Town where we learned all about the stages of a silkworm's life, notice all the larvae, and got to try our hand at extracting the silk (below).
We also stopped by a coast-side manor and traditional village that actually turned out to be a movie and TV set! Here I am hanging in a traditional house with my friend Luka.
And we DID get to go to the coast for some great views and refreshing sea air. The tide was coming in, and the whole coast had a rugged, ancient feel to it. In summer this area has popular beaches and people coming to drive on the Saemangeum Sea Wall, which is the longest sea wall in the world, but on this blustery day we got to have the coast almost all to ourselves.
And no trip to Buan would be complete without a giant, steaming bowl of their famous hard clam porridge in a ramshackle restaurant perched on a cliff above the coast. Perfect ending to the day.
3. Daejeon has some things to offer too! Here I am at the Daejeon currency museum. During the war, the money printing capabilities were moved out of the capital city and down here, where (I am pretty sure) money is still being minted.
I also recently biked through the heart of town to the government complex. Along the way, I was delighted by all the little parks and pieces of nature that the city has tried to preserve and promote. In the midst of 360 degrees urban landscapes, Daejeon has pockets of parks and green space. Here are two examples.
When I reached the government complex, below, they were a little flummoxed that I would be there just to sight-see. But I don't know why it was so shocking; I discovered some truly awesome things! Among the more mundane-sounding offices and departments, the government complex houses the "air-conditioning machinery examination department," and "the ubiquitous examination team," as well as being home to the Korean Inventors Hall of Fame and the Statistics Exhibition Center. Talk about exciting!
In the Statistics Exhibition Center I learned that KOSTAT, the premier statistics bureau in Korea which is located right here in Daejeon, is "promoting a higher standard of happiness" for all Koreans. That is a responsibility that must be taken very seriously. And in the Korean Inventors Hall of Fame I was thrilled to learn that, among more trivial things like paper, metal printing type, the satellite, the compass, and Dolly the Sheep, Koreans are also proud to have invented bagels and Choco Pies! Hats off to you, Korean inventors!