Nagan Folk Village (낙안읍성민속마을)

As part of a goodbye with two of Tamara’s co-teachers we took our last little excursion out of Gwangju. This is not the first trip we have taken with Kyungar and it is always to somewhere cool. Sadly, we were not able to spend the entire day but in the afternoon and early evening she took us to Nagun Folk Village. This has been on the edge of our to-see list, but we had resigned ourselves to it being one of the things we would just not get to do. Lucky us!

There is a way to get there by bus, but it is a little bit complicated with at least one transfer to a local bus. Instead, Kyungar drove us, so we can’t comment too much on how to get there. Around the folk village there is a small modern village with restaurants that are ‘famous’ for cockles. We arrived just in time to settle in for a cockle lunch. We had steamed cockles, cockle bibimbap, cockle jeon, and cockles with a variety of spices. It was all delicious!

We are going to miss these full Korean meals with a million different side dishes.

We are going to miss these full Korean meals with a million different side dishes – and we’ll miss our co-teachers even more.

We headed into the village (entry fee 4,000 each) and climbed up onto the wall. It was pouring rain so we did not take our usual raft of pictures, but the place was really pretty set against the misty hills. It’s a thatch roof village surrounded by a reconstructed wall. The best part is that people still live there!

Here you can see the mix of traditional and modern. It was a little strange to be wandering along a little lane and have to get out of the way for the occasional car.

Here you can see the mix of traditional and modern. It was a little strange to be wandering along a little lane and have to get out of the way for the occasional car.

The wall is a nice walk and gives an opportunity to look out over the village and get a sense of the whole thing. Down in the village there are several minbak and a bunch of cultural participation opportunities.  We wandered through and stopped at one of the courtyards that had a couple making rice cake using an old fashioned mortar and pestle to squish up the cooked rice. We tried it while it was still hot and it is a whole lot better than when it is cold.

There is also a reconstructed prison complete with life size models scattered throughout and some of the older restraints. According to one of the information signs, Nagun had comparably little crime because it had a very wise governor who ensured that the people were happy and well cared for. Based on the scene laid out by the models, it seems more likely that nobody wanted to end up in that jail!

There is also a pottery making area (we did not try it), souvenir shops, and a few other little participatory things that we opted not to do as it was raining pretty hard and we still had a long drive back. The village was even more interesting than we had originally thought it would be and was a great way to say goodbye to GaHyun and Kyungar, who has been so kind and welcoming ever since we got here.

Temple-stay and Tea with a Monk

Two weekends ago, Melanie and I made a bit of a last-minute decision to step a little outside our comfort zones and seek out another adventure on our to-do-in-Korea lists: a temple-stay! Our destination of choice: Mihwangsa, a temple located in Haenam county, Jeollanam-do.


After some confusion the previous day in terms of getting accurate bus information about the quickest/ most convenient route there, Mel and I left USquare on an 11:50 bus to Haenam, followed by about about a 40 minute village bus ride, leaving Haenam at 2:05PM out to Mihwangsa (Mihwang temple) entrance. While in Haenam, we had some extra time, so we grabbed bibimbap at a little restaurant across the street. As a side note, Mel pointed out that bibimbap really is a very different meal in the winter, as it contains more easily acquired and stored sea-vegetables and fewer fresh ones.

As instructed, we arrived at Mihwangsa around 4PM, and promptly found the clearly labeled temple-stay office. We were greeted warmly by our lovely host, Jajae, who gave us some delicious pure apple juice to drink. We chatted about the temple and temple-stay, and paid our ₩50,000 fee. She then gave us our sheets and temple-stay clothes, and showed us our room, after which we were free to wander until our orientation started at 5PM.


This was our little room, complete with ondol flooring, a tea-table on the left, a bathroom on the right, and all necessary bedding (as you can see, there was no bed, but the floor mats (not pictured) were thick and more than sufficient).

Our temple-stay clothes were super comfortable: a pair of quilted grey pants, which buttoned at the ankles, and a quilted vest. We wore them over our own clothing (I had jeans on, but if you’re going in the winter, a pair of comfy long underwear or thick fuzzy-lined leggings might be more a more practical bottom layer). Mel wore a hoodie under her vest, and I regretted not bringing one. I was, however, free to wear my winter jacket overtop of the temple-stay clothing.


Dressed and ready for our temple-stay adventure!

The temple-stay orientation was very informative, and gave us the confidence we needed not to make (too many) social mistakes during our stay. We learned about the temple itself, had a tour of its various buildings (including one which is relevant to Korean traditional beliefs, but not to Buddhism), and visited the main hall to learn about temple etiquette, how to do proper bows, and were given run-down of the activities in which we would participate.

A Little History

Founded during the reign of Shilla King Kyoung Deok, Mihwangsa has a particularly intriguing history. It is said that one day, villagers saw a stone boat approaching the village off the coast of Sajapo. The villagers were curious and tried to approach the boat, but it would move away each time they neared it; however if they backed off and stood still, it would come closer. This process repeated itself for several days.

Eventually, after the great master Euijo Hwasang and some other monks and residents purified themselves and offered prayers, the boat anchored itself. However, once aboard the ship, they could find no people: just a variety of statues, a gold box, a black rock, the Lotus Sutra, and a Buddhist wall painting. When they opened the gold box, the black rock broke open to reveal a tiny black cow, which grew into a huge cow.

That night, the great master had a dream about a man in golden robes, who said that he was the king of India. The king said that the shape of the mountains in the area made it suitable for a shrine to ten thousand Buddhas, and he instructed the great master to load the sutras and statues onto the back of the cow to trek across the mountains. The king told the great master to build a temple where the cow laid down. Master Euijo did as instructed. The cow fell down once while crossing the Dharma Mountain, but got back up again. After crossing the mountains, the cow fell down again, and did not get back up. Tonggyosa was erected at the place where the cow first fell down, and Mihwangsa where it fell down the second time.

The name of the temple is also significant, as “Mi” means beautiful, which is one way to describe the apparently pleasing and somehow musical bellow of the cow after it fell. “Hwang” means yellow or gold, and represents the golden robes of the man in Master Euijo’s dream.

Temple Etiquette and Meditation

Jajae explained to us that by putting our right and left hands together (prayer-hands style) in front of our chests (representing the coming together of the Buddha’s mind and our mind) and doing a half bow, we could express hello, goodbye, thank-you, no-thank you and more. As time at the temple is generally used for meditation and self-reflection, silence is encouraged. This bow affords everyone a means of wordless communication. Instead of the way we would normally bow out in the community, we were instructed to greet everyone at the temple (but particularly the monks) in this fashion.

Chasu was described as the respectful posture to assume when walking around the temple grounds. This involves folding your right hand over your left at the centre of your stomach. It is meant to show a humble and respectful mind.

We also learned that we should only enter the main hall through the side doors, as the front one is reserved for monks.

Upon entering the main hall, one should complete three full bows facing the Buddha. This process is more complicated than the one described above, and involves the following (forgive me if it’s overly paraphrased):

1. Put your palms together at the centre of your chest, fingers toward the ceiling, thumbs tucked in, elbows fairly loose.

2. Bend forward, and put your hands down on the mat in front of you, kneel down, and touch your forehead to the mat.

3. Raise your hands, palms facing up, to ear level, and lower again.

4. Lift your head, then knees, then hands, and carefully stand up.

5. Repeat two more times.

Our host explained that contrary to popular belief, this bowing is not an act of worshiping the Buddha statues: it is simply a sign of respect, for the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings of Buddha), and the Sangha (community).

Jajae then led us through some guided breathing meditation. Ahhh, guided breathing… As I learned during university, for some reason, my body takes guided breathing as a signal to go into panic attack mode. Why? I still don’t know. Thankfully, this time around, I was able to cautiously keep up without actually having a panic attack, which I will count as progress.

During meditation time, it was suggested to us that we take one breath for each sounding of the bell, and that we count our breaths from one to ten, and then 9, 8, 7… back down to one again, repeating the process for the duration of the session. The purpose of this is to still your mind and try to stay in the present: no thinking about the past or future or any specific thoughts except for counting your breath. Sounds easy? Not for me! However, Jajae used a great metaphor for its importance, which I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing (I hope I don’t botch it). You see, almost every minute of every day, we find ourselves thinking hundreds upon hundreds of thoughts, bouncing between past and future, and sometimes the present, but rarely allowing our minds to stand still. However, in order to experience growth and to reach enlightenment, we need to be able to reflect on our inner selves. She asked us to picture standing on the shore of the ocean, with big waves, and whether or not we could see our reflections. She compared the waves to our thoughts, and asked, in contrast, if we could see our reflections in a still pond. Some food for thought.


At 6:00PM, after bowing upon entering the dining hall, we served ourselves a delicious vegetarian dinner from the various pots and dishes at the side of the room. Our friend Lianne had been to a temple-stay at Mihwangsa before, and raved about the food. She was right. As an interesting aside, we learned that meals at the temple do not contain garlic or spring onions. Can you guess why? These strong vegetables are said to be aphrodisiacs, increasing sexual energy which could be detrimental to meditation and monks’ vows of celibacy.

Evening Activities

Following dinner and a little down-time, we joined in Yebul (evening chanting) in the main hall at 7PM. I had the melodic chanting stuck in my head for days.

After Yebul, we followed four monks in a sort of silent procession several times around a sandy courtyard near the main hall, lit by a single lamp which cast an orange glow over everyone.

We were then invited to Dado (tea with a monk and other participants) at 7:30.


After tea, we headed back to our room. Before settling in for some reading, Mel braved the tea set and did an impressive job of imitating the tea-preparation demonstrated earlier in the evening by the monk. According to the schedule, we were to have our lights out by 10PM and to maintain “noble silence” until breakfast.


Delicious (not to mention slightly complicated) green tea!

Rise and Shine

The next morning, we were awakened at 4AM by Moktak, which is a wooden percussion instrument, to be called to Yebul (morning chanting) and Jhawsun (sitting meditation). We needed to be in the main hall by 4:20AM,  and were instructed to arrive before the final sounding of a bell.

At 6:30AM, we enjoyed an amazing vegetarian breakfast comprised of the following: Lotus root with ginger, cooked young pumpkin with some mild pepper paste sauce, raddish kimchi, rice, dried seaweed, lettuce and tomato salad with yummy dressing, tofu and mushroom soup, and roll cake with coconut cream filling. This was, by far, the best breakfast I’ve eaten in Korea.

After breakfast, we participated in Oolyeok, which is working meditation at 7:30AM for an hour or so. Our task was to help the monks, our host, and some other participants stuff postcards in plastic envelopes, seal them, and then affix a label. We think they were for an upcoming festival. It was actually kind of fun!


At 8:30AM individual practice time started, during which we were free to engage in sitting or walking meditation, mountain hiking, or reading. Before we left, though, we were invited to join the another monk, this time the head monk, for tea. We had a chance to ask a few questions (largely through interpretation) and to watch him carefully consider his answers before he offered them.

After tea, we opted for a short walk/ hike in the mountains behind the temple. The weather was not ideal, but it was nice to be out in the peace and quiet of the Korean wilderness. While you can just barely see the temple in the picture below, it was completely obscured by falling snowflakes not five minutes later, as we turned to descend to the temple.

Because it was B&T’s mentee’s birthday, we needed to leave before lunch, which started at 11:30 and which would have been followed by additional individual practice time. Jajae was very kind in offering to drive us to Haenam to catch our bus home.

While it was a short retreat, Mel and I both agreed that the temple-stay experience was both worthwhile and a great way to escape the city and the post-Korea planning and packing frenzy we find ourselves in these days.

The Last Province: Chungcheongbukdo

As our time in Korea grows short we are trying to see all the things on our bucket list before our departure. One of those things was to visit Chungcheongbuk-do: the only landlocked province in Korea and the only one in which we had not yet spent any time. Because of how our school schedules overlapped, we had only a few days of holidays together this winter and so we chose to head north for three days near the end of January. Luckily for us, Pat and Mel were also off and looking for a little exploration.

We got a bit of a late start Sunday morning and, having decided to head to Danyang (not to be confused with Damyang just outside of Gwangju), we knew that we had several hours of travel ahead of us. Danyang is a resort town near the man-made Chungjuho lake that takes up a large ox-bow in the Namhanggang river. After about six hours of travel we arrived just before dinner and grabbed a motel near the bus terminal. In a similar situation to what the four of us had on Gageodo, this was a single room where we spread out floor mats, but the price was right. Danyang is almost certainly set against a backdrop of some beautiful mountains … but we basically never saw them. Fog was our constant companion throughout the trip.

The first order of business was to hunt down some dinner, a task which proved slightly harder than anticipated as many places were closed either for the off-season or because it was Sunday. We did find a place where we could get some pork wraps, mandu (Korean dumplings), and naengmyeon (cold noodles with a few veggies, some sauce and a hard-boiled egg).

Dinner for the famished travelers.

Dinner for the famished travelers.

After dinner we headed out to explore with what little daylight was left for us. The town is divided roughly in two by a ridge near the centre of the ox-bow. However, there is a pretty little boardwalk path along the river that connects the two and we wandered along this. In the summer there is a rose archway, but in the winter there was just fog and the nearby river. As it got dark pretty early, we grabbed some breakfast and snack materials and headed back to the room for a few rounds of cards, Catchphrase, and Scrabble before bed.

The next morning dawned (or rather failed to dawn) with fog as dense as pea soup, which contributed to us getting a bit of a late start. While everyone else caught another half-hour or so of shut eye, Tamara hit up the nearby sauna/ public bath for a soak before breakfast (clean and simple facilities for ₩6,000; there was a jjimjilbang too, which appeared to be a viable sleeping option, but probably for an additional fee). Although we had made no solid plans for the day, we had discussed heading to Sobaeksan and hiking one of the lower peaks, but the fog pretty well killed that idea. It’s less fun hiking when the view is non-existent. Instead we opted to head for Gosu Cave, which is just across the river from Danyang. On the way, we stopped at a tourist information booth and were promptly adopted by a Korean man who introduced himself as William and offered to come along with us on our trip to the cave as he was heading there anyway. He was a very interesting travel companion, fresh out of the military and on a bit of a country tour before settling back in to school.

A lunch shot showing Will, our happy, energetic travelling companion.

A lunch shot showing Will, our happy, energetic travelling companion.

The cave itself was amazing, although it is likely that it would be far more crowded and thus less appealing in high season. Gosu cave is a little over 1,700 metres long and 150,000 years old. Although tourists are not allowed in all sections of the cave, there are catwalks running throughout leading to the different levels. At various points throughout the cave there are manned safety checkpoints and labelled rock formations. We were able to take our time going through and it probably took about an hour.

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We followed this up with a quick lunch and then walked back into town (where William headed off to go paragliding) to discuss our next move. If anything, the fog was getting denser rather than lifting as we had hoped. Ultimately, we decided to catch a taxi to Sobaeksan for a walk on some of the lower slopes. After a short ride to the Darian area we checked out the waterfall, which was frozen, then headed up the access road to the ranger station. What we did not know was that Sobaeksan requires all hikers to start up the trails before 1 or 2:00 depending on the time of year. We were late.

Darian Falls frozen up for the winter

Darian Falls frozen up for the winter.

In some ways it was fortuitous, as the fog turned into a misty rain on our way back down. There was also a second, smaller cave just inside the Sobaeksan boundary called Cheondongdong-gul. It is a little harder to spot but worth the effort. Tighter spaces were the name of the game in Cheondongdong-gul, but nothing too bad. It’s difficult to say it was necessarily better than Gosu cave, but there were even less people there and the cave had a lot of unique features.

When we re-emerged from the cave to discover that the rain had only increased, we decided to head back to town and settle in to a cafe to read for a bit and wait. Pat and Mel, on the other hand opted to walk along the river and up a stream in search of a few birds to add to their lists. We found a cafe on the fourth floor above the aquarium that would likely have a gorgeous view if you could see past the riverbank.

Dinner was a quick bite of pizza, and then Tamara and Mel headed off to the sauna while Patrick and Blake sorted out the plan for the next day. Because we had to be back in Gwangju Tuesday night, we planned to leave early for a hike in Woraksan before continuing on to Chungju to catch the Gwangju bus.

Needless to say 5:45 came way to early, but we succeeded in getting everything packed and catching the correct city bus. By the time we arrived at the ferry terminal the sun was starting to come up and we headed for the trail to Jebibong, the nearest peak, knowing that we had to catch the 11:25 bus to Chungju or really complicate our return journey. We never made the summit, but the first kilometer and a half of the trail were really spectacular. The trail climbs quickly to a rocky succession of spurs connected by a relatively narrow ridge. It was once again pretty foggy so the scenes were somewhat limited, but still amazing.

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In the end,  after a bite of pajeon in a restaurant across the highway, we managed to flag down the appropriate bus and even caught a transfer to Gwangju with only five minutes to spare. So for us, Chungbuk-do is a hazy place with some spectacular caves and the potential for some really gorgeous hiking on a clear day. And with that, we tick off the last of Korea’s provinces from our ‘must see’ list.


Getting to Danyang from Gwangju is not all that easy. There are several options including transfers in Dajeon, Daegu, and Seoul, but we chose to go straight to Chungju and transfer there. There are not many buses to Chungju form Gwangju, but we caught one at 10:30am and the ride was 3.5 hours and just over ₩20,000. The bus from Chungju to Danyang was another 1.5 hours and ₩8,500. There is also a train station on the edge of Danyang that appears to have relatively regular trains running to it.

Danyang itself has lots of places to stay and they were largely empty in low season. We can’t speak for high season. It does appear that some businesses close during the winter.

Getting around Danyang was not that tough. There are a lot of city buses complete with a map and schedule at the main bus terminal. They do not run that frequently, but the routes are easy enough to figure out. Gosu cave is just a short walk across the main bridge and Sobaeksan is only a short taxi or bus ride away. Entrance fees for Gosu and Cheondongdong-gul caves are ₩5,000 per person.

When stopping at any of the Woraksan access points along the lake, it is possible to flag the buses heading for Chungju, but you do have to be standing at the bus stop and actually flag them or they will not stop.

Duryunsan Provincial Park

Our first hike of the year was a new one for us. We had never been to the Haenam area, in the southern part of our province and we wanted to check it out before we left. A little looking led us to Duryunsan Provincial Park, which is located very near Haenam. Pat and Mel once again joined us for this particular outdoor adventure. Pat’s birding has taken him to Haenam several times in the past, but they had never been to the actual park itself.

Pretty happy to have a day out of town!

Pretty happy to have a day out of town!

We caught an 8:20 bus from Gwangju to Haenam and had just enough time to snag a quick pastry at Paris Baguette near the Haenam Bus Terminal before grabbing the next but to the park. Initially, this hike is more of a three kilometre stroll up paths and roads along the creek.

Wandering up towards the temple.

Wandering up towards the temple.

We did this in a pretty heavy mist so there was not a lot to see and we kept moving at a decent clip to keep warm. Daeheungsa itself is quite large as temples go, and situated nicely in the river valley. It is unusually spread out, both at the main complex and with a bunch of outposts/buildings scattered along the valley as you come up along the river.

There were lots of these. Not entirely sure what they are, but they are pretty interesting either way.

There were lots of these. Not entirely sure what they are, but they are pretty interesting either way.

The temple itself is quite nice, but the morning mist prevented us from getting the full effect of the setting until our return in the afternoon. In the morning we did see some interesting signs and a monk carrying some sort of gold bell? Candleholder? We are not really sure but it was pretty cool.

The trail runs out the back of the temple and splits. There are three routes up to the summit and we chose the centre option that runs straight up the middle. In hindsight this may not have been the best option as the first kilometer or so was concrete: not the most pleasant hiking surface. However, it did eventually turn into a pretty little trail that continued up to the pass between two of the major peaks in the park: Garyeongbong and Duryunbong. The haze was lifting but the views were not great yet and the wind was howling so we opted to continue up to Garyeongbong, the highest peak in the park at 703 meters.

This part of the trail is where things started to get pretty interesting. The ridge that Garyeongbong is part of is very rocky and the result was that parts of the hike required scrambling over boulders and up really steep sections of rock. Being a Korean hiking course there were hand and foothold assists on any tricky parts, but it was still pretty fun. By the time we reached the peak, the haze had lifted a bit more and we were able to get at a look at the ocean. Duryunsan park is out on a sort of peninsula so the view encompasses a lot of coast, including Jindo Island. Even on a hazy day it was pretty nice. On a clear day it would have been amazing.

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We spent only a short time on the summit as the wind was really kicking up and making things pretty chilly. Just off the peak we found a slightly sheltered area for a bite of lunch before continuing along the ridge line towards the Noseoulbong.

By this point the wind was both freezing and extremely powerful so we opted to drop back down into the valley on a smaller trail between the two peaks. As it turned out, this was an exercise in boulder-hopping down the mountainside until we reached the original centre trail just above the pavement to finish off our descent on the road.

The nice thing about the rocky descent was great views over the temple complex.

The nice thing about the rocky descent was the abundance of great views over the temple complex.

By the time we reached the temple, the haze had cleared enough to get a good look at the peaks behind it and we paused for a bit of photography before walking the last three kilometres to a cafe where we warmed our frozen fingers and then down to the bus stop to start our trip home.

Logistics Getting from Gwangju to Haenam is very easy and the buses run on about 30-40 minute intervals from U square. The trip is an hour and ten to and hour and thirty minutes. Cost is just over 11,000₩. To get from Haenam to Duryunsan, the local bus leaves from the bus terminal. From what we could tell, it runs every 30 minutes (give or take) and costs 1,200₩. It is possible to purchase tickets at the ticket booth, pay cash as you get on the bus, or swipe a hanpay transit card (used for Gwangju public transit) as you board the bus. The bus will load through the gate on the far right, number 7 or 8, and the bus will be for Daeheungsa and/or Duryunsan. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the park. The end of the bus line is the base of the cable car and hikers will want to get off before this, at an intersection with a bunch of hotels and shops along it. From here, take the boardwalk up the river and keep walking until you hit the main temple complex (about 3 km). All the trails branch out from the temple itself. Access to the park is 3000₩. Coming back to Haenam, wait for the bus at the stop where you were dropped off. It is a sort of Y intersection beside a bridge and the bus should come every 30 minutes or so. Once again, stay on it until it returns to the terminal.

Happy hiking!


After a failed attempt to visit the DMZ in November, we booked a USO tour a month ahead of time to go on December 13th. We headed up to Seoul late on the Friday evening and stayed the night at a jjimjilbang near Seoul Station. This is also relatively close to the USO at Camp Kim. USO tours start early, with guests being requested to arrive by 7:00. This meant that we were up and out well before six. In Korea, breakfast that is not of the rice and kimchi variety can be difficult to come by that early, so we had packed instant coffee and picked up some bread and pastries the night before to tide us over.

The tour starts with an hour and a half bus ride up to freedom bridge, which we were informed is the point that civilian vehicles are not allowed past. After a brief game of slalom with the road blocks on the bridge and a few more minutes on a highway, we pulled into Camp Bonifas, named after one of the casualties in the axe murder incident. We were informed at the time that we were not to take any photos of the camp and were ushered into a theater for a briefing slideshow and to sign another waver basically stating that we would not hold anyone responsible if we are killed while visiting the Joint Security Area (JSA).

After the briefing we got on two military buses and headed up into the JSA. They had explained to us the basic layout of the JSA with the UN buildings on one side and the North Korean buildings on the other. We disembarked  and went through the Freedom House building to the steps facing north across the military demarcation line. In the JSA the basic rule is no photos unless you are told it is OK and even then only into/towards North Korea. From the steps we could see a line of conference buildings running straight along the demarcation line and behind those a concrete building that is the North Korean equivalent of the Freedom House.

After the group in front of ours cleared out, we went into the central conference building and had a look at the layout. The south Korean soldiers inside are standing in some kind of modified Tae Kwon Do stance. It looks pretty imposing, but bloody uncomfortable. At least one of them was soaked in sweat from the effort of staying like that.

From there it was straight back to the buses and on to outpost 5 where we could see propaganda village in the North Korean side of the DMZ. Apparently, it got its name because they used to blast propaganda at the south from there and most of the buildings are/were simply shells. Doors and windows painted on the outside, no floors inside, and a single light at the top to give the appearance that they were inhabited. The lookout was pretty bloody cold with the wind, but the view was gorgeous, although slightly hazy.

The view from Outpost 5 towards the bridge of no return.

The view from Outpost 5 towards the bridge of no return.

Looking out at propaganda village: Kijongdong

Looking out at propaganda village: Kijongdong

Again, we were straight back on the bus and over to the bridge of no-return. This is where, after the war, prisoners were lined up and told they could go to either side. Once they chose, there was no going back. Prisoners had to stay on whatever side they chose. Near the bridge is a marker where a large poplar tree was cut down because it was screening the view between two UN guard posts. In 1976 UN personnel attempted to trim back the tree, but were attacked by North Korean soldiers and two Americans were killed with hatchets. A few days later a large American force went out and cut down the tree under heavy protection and with all forces in South Korea on high alert.

From there we headed back to Camp Bonifas for a brief wander around the gift shop. Pretty well every place we stopped during the tour had a gift shop offering a variety of DMZ paraphernalia from rice to barbed wire. From the JSA we headed to the Dora Observatory. Originally a observation post, the observatory now provides a great view into North Korea and the joint industrial area between the North and South. As our tour guide explained to us, North Korea provides the incredibly cheap labour, and South Korea provides the materials and expertise, while keeping and marketing the goods that are produced.

View from the Dora observatory into North Korea.

View from the Dora observatory into North Korea.

Lunch was a quick stop on the highway that heads into the industrial complex where we were given the choice of bulgogi or bibimbap. It was slightly reminiscent of the roadside stops along the South Korean highways, but strangely pristine and empty. Rather odd, actually.  It is placed quite close to Dorasan station; the last station on the rail line connecting North and South Korea. The connection actually exists, but of course it is impossible to travel between the two. For 500W each we bought a ticket that allowed us out onto the platform. The train itself is actually kind of cute and looks to be almost new.

Our final stop was the 3rd tunnel.  The third of the four that have been located thus far, this tunnel was cut by the North Koreans to infiltrate soldiers under the DMZ and into South Korea. Of course none of them were ever used, but this tunnel could allegedly facilitate tens of thousands of armed soldiers an hour. Going down into the tunnel was pretty neat, although we were not allowed to take any photos. It’s quite low, and blasted straight through the granite bedrock. There is also a museum covering the history of relations between the North and South with a few artifacts from the various events that took place along the DMZ.


From there it was straight back to Seoul where we were dropped at Seoul station a bit before four, had a bite to eat and headed for the bus back to Gwangju.

Overall it was a worthwhile trip, the highlights probably being the conference rooms at the JSA and the third tunnel. For those thinking of heading up to the DMZ we suggest that whatever tour you choose, make sure those things are on it. The USO tour was good, likely as good or better than most others as there is a limited amount of freedom to be had in the area anyway. It’s not as if it is possible to see that many different things. It was interesting to look into North Korea and our reactions to seeing North Korea and KPA soldiers certainly taught us something about our own perceptions of North Korea, good and bad. A good trip all around.

Wolchulsan in the Winter: The Ridgeline

A few weekends back, I had a Sunday free so Ben, Tom and I headed down to Wolchulsan for a day of winter hiking. Wolchulsan is one of their favourite hikes and Tamara and I have never covered the trails that lead along the ridge line to the far side of the park, so that’s where we were headed. We caught the early bus and then a taxi from the Yeongam bus terminal to the base of the mountain before making a quick dash to the trailhead to get ahead of a rather large Korean hiking group.

Looking up from the base.  Almost like late fall back home!

Looking up from the base. Almost like late fall back home!

The plan was to loop up over the sky bridge and the mountains above it, then circle back to the main summit Cheonhwangbong for a bite to eat. From there the trail heads off along the ridge towards Dogapsa (temple) on the far side of the park. It had snowed the night before and the mountain was really gorgeous with all the trees and rocks coated in snow. The trail was in pretty good shape aside from the odd ice patch and we made decent time up to the cloud overpass. After pausing for a few photos, and to catch a man waving from a notch in the mountains on the far side of the valley, we headed up to the peaks above.

We moved pretty quickly through this area as we were all familiar with it and  wanted to stay ahead of the crowds. Unlike when Tamara and I did this trail with Josh and Elisti in January, there were no barricades blocking it off. The stairs were a bit slippery but nothing to bad and it was, for the most part, quiet. This was especially nice as the fact that both Tom and Ben were wearing shorts was attracting a lot of attention from Korean hikers. There were constant queries about whether they were cold and some people even came up and rubbed their legs. Photo requests were common. Let this be a warning to all who hike in Korea: if you are not dressed in what is considered standard hiking gear for the time of year, prepare to be a spectacle.

On the peak above the cloud overpass: Sajabong

On the peak above the cloud overpass: Sajabong

Looking down from part of the ascent.

Looking down from part of the ascent.

On the peak we took a break for a few snacks and some hot coffee while admiring the view out across the ridge. Having a thermos is just a recipe for happiness on an winter hike.

Looking out from Cheonhwangbong along our route.

Looking out from Cheonhwangbong along our route.

After leaving Cheonhwangbong we were on all new terrain for me. The trail drops down for a ways onto the ridge and this was likely the trickiest part of the trail. Many of the rocky sections and stairs were covered with snow and ice that was starting melt, making it all pretty slippery. There were several instances where the descent turned into a semi-controlled, impromptu skiing event. It was hard to argue with the scenery though.

Just before we reached the second peak, we veered off to the right past Gujeongbong and over to a Buddha cliff carving. This trail can take you out of the park to the north but we were planning to head back. Parts of this trail were really slippery and, once you pass Gujeongbong, there were fewer and fewer tracks in the snow. We had a peaceful lunch under the Buddha, soaking up some of the heat before the sun lost its power.

A quick post lunch snap in front of the carved Buddha.

A quick post lunch snap in front of the carved Buddha.

We retraced our steps past Gujeongbong and then headed up and over Hyangnobong. The trail over this summit was underwhelming, although it looked possible to take a little spur trail off to the right that might take a hiker out to the summit. I can’t speak for the view there though.

Once you cross Hyangnobong an entirely different view opens up as you move along the edge of the valley towards Eoksaebat, which is a field of tall grasses. Signs in the park suggest that this was some sort of village at one point or another. Either way, it’s a pretty little field with a great view. Ben and Tom climbed a little rock spur which provided a great photo op. I botched it a bit, but the chance was there.

The lads on a rock outcropping.

Tom on a rock outcropping.

Eoksaebat field view.

Eoksaebat field view with Tom and Ben in the background.

A large Korean hiking group (possibly from Daegu) caught up to us while we were goofing around the rocks so we jogged partway down into the valley to get some separation. After the fields the trail drops back into the trees and meets up with a stream that we followed the rest of the way out.

It’s a pretty little valley with Dogapsa waiting at the other end. The snow was melting off the temple buildings making some gorgeous drip lines catching the setting sun.

Sadly, the drip line did not come out on the camera so here is a consolation shot of the temple itself.

Sadly, the drip line did not come out on the camera so here is a consolation shot of the temple itself.

From there it was a less than fifteen minute cab ride to the Yeongam bus terminal and our ride home. It’s probably unnecessary to say that we were all conked out for most of the ride.

Birding in Suncheon

Having spent much of the last several months in Gwangju due to courses and other commitments, we were more than happy to accept an offer from Pat to take us birding on Sunday. Suncheon is a coastal city about an hour and a half bus ride south of Gwangju and is best known for its large international gardens displays. However, this past weekend, we were much more interested in the coastal eco-park on Suncheon Bay (순천만). We got a bit of a late start on a damp and chilly Sunday and headed out of Gwangju about 8:30.

This park protects a large area of reeds – apparently the largest remaining in Korea. These reeds are quite beautiful, standing several meters tall and in large undisturbed swaths that make quite a pretty picture. They also sound beautiful in the wind. The protected coastal wetland hosts several rare birds both as residents and migrants. In particular, it is the winter home of Hooded Cranes, which we were there to see. It is possible to take a local bus (67) for about twenty minutes from the stop behind the terminal, but we opted to take a taxi instead. Given that there were four of us it was almost the same price (6,000) and much less hassle.

We disembarked and headed over to the edge of the fields bordering the park proper to have a look at the various birds blanketing the area. Pat set up his scope and scanned across, identifying species as he went and then locking it in on a family group of hooded cranes so we could have a look. They are surprisingly big birds and it was really neat to watch them poking around and chasing one another. Although there is a network of roads through the fields, they are blocked off and monitored by guards (who of course eyed us with cautious amusement) to prevent people from disturbing the cranes.


Having a look at some Hooded Cranes

Having a look at some Hooded Cranes

After a few minutes we decided to pay our entry fee and head into the park itself. Adults must pay ₩5,000 for entry to see the boardwalks. We wandered through the reeds on elevated walkways for a while before setting up to scope for birds again.

There were several structures on the other side of the river, but that area was closed to protect the cranes.

There were several structures on the other side of the river, but that area was closed to protect the cranes.

The boat heading downriver towards the bay. The board walks are on the left.

The boat heading downriver towards the bay. The boardwalks are on the left.


We got a few interesting looks when Pat again set up his scope. Koreans are clearly not used to this sort of thing, but it was a great vantage point.

Confusing the Koreans. A common foreigner pass time.

Confusing the Koreans. A common foreigner pastime.

The boardwalks are quite extensive and appear to go all the way to a small mountain on the far side that has an observation platform attached to it. We opted not to go that far as we wanted to take a boat out into the bay (₩7,000). Boat tours leave every half hour or so, but fill up fast. We had to book one an hour ahead of time.

Random photo opportunity in the reeds. Captain Tamara!

Random photo opportunity in the reeds. Captain Tamara!

Since we had a little over an hour to kill, we popped across the street to warm up with some coffee and sandwiches at one of the many shops in front of the park. While we were in there it began to rain properly and the umbrellas came out.

Umbrella parade through the reeds.

Umbrella parade through the reeds.

We caught our boat and headed out into the bay. We were in the back area, which is undercover but has open sides, with a bunch of kids that turned out to be pretty cute once we convinced them not to crawl on our cameras etc. Despite the rain there was some interesting scenery and we saw a ton of birds. Not that we were able to identify more than one or two, but Pat was noting species right and left.

The tour lasted about 40 minutes and once we got back to the dock we decided to separate. The ladies would catch a bus back to Gwangju for some sauna time while Pat and Blake walked the 8+KM up the river into Suncheon.

The rather damp trail leading up-river.

The rather damp trail leading up-river.

It rained intermittently throughout the hike up so they got pretty damp, but there were some interesting sightings to go with good laughs and conversation. There was even a water deer. Since Blake’s camera was put away out of the rain at the time, google it. It’s a weird little thing. About the size of a coyote with big front teeth and pretty shy. Their trails look almost like rabbit runs. (Tamara’s still not sure that Blake isn’t making the whole thing up…) Other than that there were a couple of close looks at a kingfisher and a nice walk in the rain. The bus terminal was packed but Pat and Blake were able to catch the second bus that loaded after they started standing in line to arrive back in Gwangju in time for dinner.

Suncheon is definitely worth the visit and would be even nicer on a clear day. However, the long return line-ups at the bus terminal are apparently standard practice so plan to spend around an hour waiting to get back to Gwangju (all other lines were negligible).

Najangsa to Baekyangsa

I know we have not posted in almost a month, but things have been a little crazy. I have been studying for the LSAT and subsequently writing applications for school and Tamara has been working her way through an online math course as a pre-requisite for education programs once we get home. This meant that, not only did we not have a lot of time to write, but we weren’t doing all that many things worth writing about.

However, that is hopefully changing. The last weekend of October we both went to Najangsan National Park … separately. We opted to have a girls’ trip and a guys’ trip. The guys, myself, Steven, and Ben, decided to hike from Najangsa in the northern part of the park to Baekyangsa (which Tamara and I had visited previously) in the southern part.

We all caught the 8:15 bus from U-square and disembarked a little before 10:00. Of course we then hit the mobs. Najangsan is ‘famous’ for its fall colours and the bottom was a mob scene. The line to pay our entrance fee was almost 100 meters long, but thankfully moved relatively quickly. Once we were through the the gate, we bee-lined up towards the temple, dodging through the crowds. To reach the correct trail, we had to go directly into the temple, out a small back gate, and across a little stream. Once clear of the temple we left most of the crowds behind (for the time being) and headed up a nice little trail along the stream before hiking up a relatively steep trail to Kkachibong. At that point I was reminded how out of shape I really am. Kkachibong is only slightly over 700 meters, but it damn nearly killed me. Ben was miles ahead by the time Steven and I dragged our asses up to the summit.

Kkachibong summit break.

Kkachibong summit break.

We had a brief rest and a bite to eat before the peak was flooded and then walked the ridge south-east for three hundred meters before swinging off onto the trail heading along a ridge spur trail going south-west. At this point we freed ourselves from most of the other hikers – the main hike in the northern part of the park is the ridge line surrounding Najangsa valley and at this point we cut off that trail- and headed out into a much quieter part … at least for hiking in Korea. Hendrik and I did the ridge around the Najangsa valley last year and it was fantastic.

One of the first clear views after we left the busier trails.

One of the first clear views after we left the busier trails.

The next nearly five kilometres was fantastic hiking. Although we were a bit early for the true fall colours, the trails and the undergrowth were all covered in leaf litter and the sun was coming through the leaves lighting up the few bright red trees scattered through the forest. There were a few great views before we dropped off the ridge and into a valley where we followed a stream up a gradual slope to Sunchangsaejae pass.

From there we turned up another ridge line and started climbing towards our second set of peaks. This was also a pretty enjoyable part of the trail. There were lots of ups and downs as we headed gradually upwards towards Sangwangbong. The trail was relatively empty and the views kept getting better the higher we went. The final 100 meters up to the summit were pretty steep, but short enough that it was not a problem. Unfortunately, at the peak we met several Korean hiking clubs that had come up from Baekyangsa. It was a complete zoo! We could barely even look at the map due the mobs trying to get photos with it.

Looking out from the ridge.

Looking out from the ridge.

We had a quick lunch and then headed off down a different trail from the hiking mobs. Our route took us along a nice, quiet ridge to Baekhakbong, which faces over Baekyangsa temple. Descending from the summit to the valley happened around the very prominent cliff faces on countless sets of stairs. I fell behind taking pictures and by the time I reach Yaksa-am, a small subsidiary temple area above Baekyangsa, I was once again entangled in hiking clubs.

The last of the descent was just a little too slow as we missed our bus to Gwangju by only a few minutes, despite a last minute sprint finish for what turned out to be the wrong bus. We settled in to watch the sunset over Baekhabong and wait for the next bus to Gwangju while finishing off the last of our food. A great day, even if it did leave me completely gassed — clearly more exercise is in order!

The front side of Baekhabong as seen from the bus stop.

The front side of Baekhabong as seen from the bus stop.


There are three direct buses from Gwangju to the Najangsa area. The earliest leaves at 8:15. The last bus from Najangsa to Gwangju leaves at 4:40, but there are more buses into Jeongeup, the nearby village.

There are semi-regular buses from Gwangju to Baekyangsa. We just missed one at 4:30 and we caught the 5:45 departure. Alternatively, there are more regular buses into Janseong and it is possible to catch a bus from there to Gwangju, although it’s a bit more complicated.

By the time you factor in the distance from the bus stops to the trail head, the total distance on our hike was just under 18 kilometres.

Gageodo (가거도): The Second Instalment

Despite weather forecasts to the contrary, our second full day on Gageodo dawned beautiful and clear. All four of us really wanted to see what was on the far end of the island, but after hiking more than 15 km the day before we did not want to undertake a 20+ km round trip on foot. Instead we chose to hire a boat to take us to the lighthouse on the northwestern tip of Gageodo. After a quick breakfast in our room, we headed downstairs and spoke with one of the men that had offered us a fishing charter the previous day. With Tamara’s Korean skills we were able to communicate that we only wanted to be dropped at the far end and we would hike back. He charged us 50,000/person which, considering it was Chuseok day, we thought was more than reasonable.

Our ride around the island.

Our ride around the island.

As it turned out, he was not just taking us to the end of the island. He was also giving us a tour of the coastline. It was really beautiful to look up at the cliffs we had walked above the day before and to get some idea of what the coast actually looks like.

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The ride took 20-30 minutes and we were dropped at a small pier with a boathouse and a set of steps leading up to the lighthouse complex. The lighthouse complex is government run and is a very tidy area. It is also the only set of buildings on the island that is not connected to the main port by road. Through trails or by boat is the only way to access it. Given that we had asked only to be dropped off, we knew we would be walking the rest of the rest of the way home.


There are three trail options. One leads back down the west coast to the second village, one goes straight up and over the main mountain, and one goes around to the third village on the north eastern coast. We chose to head around and see the third village. It was almost immediately apparent that these trails were nothing like those we had experienced elsewhere in Korea. We headed into a bamboo tunnel and the brush just kept closing in. Apparently all the trails on the island are like this. Given that one guy we talked to had already seen a snake that day and all the rocks were covered in moss and dew, it was a bit of a hairy 2 km trek to the village.

When we did reach the village, we found it strangely deserted. Not one villager was seen, yet there was an AC unit running beside one of the houses and Tamara caught a whiff of something cooking. We settled into a shady area on the pier and had a mini lunch after attempting to wash out the various cuts and scrapes accumulated on the trail. During lunch, we decided that our best bet was to head back on the road through the centre of the island (yes it is there even though naver and google don’t show it) rather than taking on the trail that swings out along the coast. Given the condition of the first trail and what we could see of the second one, we would have been cut to pieces by the time we made it back to our pension.

After a quick look around the village we started up the switchbacks. All the roads on the island are concrete rather than asphalt and the reflect heat like crazy so we were all pretty soaked by the time we broke onto the ridgeline just south of the mountain summit.

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There is a gazebo at the crossroads and we settled into the shade for a brief rest. From the Gazebo there is a road to the main village, a road to the summit, a trail that follows the ridgeline back to the main village, and the road we had just walked up from village three. Given that we were so close, we couldn’t pass up the summit so we left Pat and Mel resting at the gazebo and headed up to check it out.

It was the strangest summit we had ever seen. After walking about 500 meters up the road we hit a military guard post. The entire top of the mountain is a military base. The guard at the gate (police) checked us in taking our names and addresses before waving us up the wooden stairs to the summit. On the summit we were greeted by another policeman coming out of a guard hut. He indicated the summit marker to our left and made it quite clear that we were only allowed to take photos of an area about a meter square around the marker. He even took the picture for us. We were then ushered back down the stairs and checked out at the gate. Very odd.

The extent of the photography area on the summit.

The extent of the photography area on the summit.

After rejoining Pat and Mel, we headed down the road towards the main village. The road crosses the ridge running the length of the island so we were walking above the coastal road from the day before.

It was a surprisingly short walk back to the village and we got there before 3:00. We headed straight to the mart for ice cream and then back to the room to dump our gear, grab swimsuits and head for the beach. When we first arrived, there were several Korean families just finishing off a picnic. We headed down to the other end of the beach. From there it was straight into the water. And boy did that draw some shocked looks from the Koreans! We lounged on the rocks for a bit before heading back to the pension.

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Dinner was once again fish-centric, but this time it was anchovy soup with tofu and a large dried fish of some kind as the centrepiece. It was actually really delicious.


We followed this up with a moonlight walk around town and out to the beaches. It was a full moon, or close enough that we couldn’t tell the difference, and a beautiful clear night.

Moon over the harbour.

Moon over the harbour.

Moon over the beach.

Moon over the beach.

Our final morning on Gageodo was slightly overcast, but that didn’t slow us down much. After a leisurely breakfast in the room and some reading time at the village gazebo, we headed back to the beach for one last dip. It was the first time we had been there when the tide was coming in. We found that there was a section of smooth, sloping rock (the same ones we had reclined on the day before) where the waves were washing quite strongly. The rocks were so smooth that we could ride the waves in and out across them without any difficulty. Great ride.

Sadly, we had to get to town for lunch, to settle the room, get our tickets and board the ferry home. Gageodo was an amazing trip – one of the top trips we have taken in Korea. There were so few people, great beaches, and decent hiking. It was easy to just relax and enjoy our time there. Such a great place.

Logistics and Advice

Let’s start by saying these are just suggestions and we are far from authorities on this stuff.

Getting there takes a while, but is not that complicated. Buses from Gwangju to Mokpo start at 5:20 AM and run regularly throughout the day for a little under ₩6,000. From the bus terminal it’s about a ₩6,000 cab ride to the ferry terminal. That’s when things start to get pricey. There is only one ferry to and from Gageodo each day. It leaves Mokpo at 8:10 and makes several stops along the way and costs over ₩60,000. Coming back, the ferry leaves Gageodo at 13:00 and costs slightly less. It takes between four and five hours. The ticket office opens at 11:30 and is located just behind the police building on the waterfront.

There are several different accommodation options in the main village including minbak, motels, and pensions. There is also a minbak at the second village. We think there is one at the third village as well, but the deserted feel to the place would suggest that it may not be operational. We paid ₩60,000 for the room we rented that had more than enough space for two couples. We looked at another room in the pension for ₩40,000 that would have comfortably held only one couple.

Once you’re on the island, getting around is largely by boat or on foot. It may be possible to hitch a ride. We were offered one as we climbed the hill out of the village on the first day, but we chose not to accept so we can’t say if there would have been a cost involved. For our boat trip, to the end of the island we paid ₩50,000 per person. Trails on the island are, in general, poorly maintained and overgrown with some nasty thorn bushes. Those who plan on hiking them will need long pants and should probably wear light long sleeves as well. There are roads, albeit narrow ones, to all three villages and the mountain summit, but not to the lighthouse.

Basic map of Gageodo trails. Note that the lighthouse is actually the northern tip rather than the western as suggested by the island's orientation on this sign.

Basic map of Gageodo trails. Note that the lighthouse is actually the northern tip rather than the western as suggested by the island’s orientation on this sign.

Travelling the islands we learned that you should bring your own breakfast, unless of course you are OK with Korean style rice, fish, and kimchi for breakfast. This trip we brought oatmeal, trail mix and a bit of fruit. We also brought trail food for when we are out and about, including energy bars, nuts, dried fruit, etc. Basically, we only planned to eat out for dinners, and even one of those was made up of mostly ramyeon. If you don’t like fish, bring a lot of food, because it is hard to find anything else. Just because it’s on the menu doesn’t mean you can order it. The first night we ordered samgyupsal (which was listed on the side of the building) and were served maeuntang: spicy fish soup. It was a case of shut-up and eat or go hungry.

Bring cash to the islands. As much as you think you will need to cover all your costs. Some places might accept cards and some islands might have an atm. But there are no guarantees they will have them or that the machines will be working. There is not a lot of English on the islands, so be ready and willing to try Korean and get by with hand gestures. While we were snubbed pretty hard a few times, people generally seem more friendly and more willing to try to talk to you, laugh with you, and welcome you.


Gageodo (가거도): The First Instalment

Last year on Chuseok we opted to head out to Heuksando and Hongdo and had a fantastic time, so this year we thought we’d join Pat and Mel for a trip to an even more remote island: Gageodo. It takes roughly four hours to get from Mokpo to Gageodo, including a stop at Heuksando.

We caught the earliest bus from Gwangju to Mokpo and were on the ferry heading out to sea just after 8:00. We landed at Gageodo shortly after 12:00. The main village on the island is set back among several high rocks behind a high seawall. Aside from the (apparently) recent addition of a huge orange dry-dock structure.


Our first look at the village once we stepped of the boat.

Our first look at the village once we stepped of the boat.

A view of the village from above.

A view of the village from above.

The island is remote, rocky, and sparsely populated. Perfect for a quiet getaway from the noise and people usually associated with travel on mainland Korea and especially amplified on Chuseok.

First order of business was to find a place to stay for the weekend. There are several minbak and motels available on the main street of the village, but we opted for a pension. The first one that presented itself to us was 제일 펜션 (Best Pension). We had a look at a few of the rooms and opted to share one on the third floor looking out over the harbour for 60,000₩/night. Once we were settled in we had a few snacks before heading out in search of a beach.

There is a public beach just across a headland from the harbour, but we opted to explore a little farther can found one that is a bit more secluded and is surrounded by high cliffs. Gorgeous. It also has large rocks that are nice and smooth for sunbathing or taking a nap in between dips in the ocean. Pat headed off birding but the three of us opted to lounge on the beach and swim. Despite the fact that beach season is officially over in Korea, the water was really warm and relaxing.

After a long and relaxing time on the beach, Pat rejoined us with some fantastic news; he had spotted his 700th species of bird. We will leave the birding side of the trip for Pat to deal with on his blog here. We headed back to the pension to change, explore the town, grab some beer to celebrate, and find some dinner. Given that we had all been up before 4:00 AM, we suffered a slight setback in our plans.

Tired? Whose tired?

Tired? Who’s tired?

However, we did eventually manage to head out into the village for a bit of exploration. There are only two roads in the village, one along the waterfront and one across the top of the village to the school. Everything in between are these little alley-like paths and stairs. They are actually really neat.

There are two small stores on the main street. One, the one with a green awning, serves as something of a gathering place in the village. Throughout our stay, there were always people sitting outside the door or drinking and playing cards inside. We had dinner at the restaurant in the bottom of our pension — 매운탕 — spicy fish (bone) soup. When you’re on the islands, fish is the centrepiece of pretty well every meal. We wrapped up our evening with celebratory beers under the light house and were passed out by 9:00.

The village as seen from the lighthouse

The village as seen from the lighthouse.

Our first full day on the island, we headed up the road behind the village and out along the west coast. At the hill above the village the road forks, running high and low along the side of the mountain. The high road eventually crosses over the ridge to the other side of the island, but the low road goes along hillside overlooking the ocean and cliffs until it terminates at the second village about 6 KM away.

Hangri village sits in a low point between the main island and a large peninsula. There is a minbak and a restaurant (not selling food on Chuseok) that basically make up the entire village. There was also a goat which Tamara could not resist doting on. When we hiked into the hills on the peninsula we discovered several small herds of goats grazing. In some ways, the entire area feels like it could be on the coast of Scotland or the east coast of Canada.

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After a short time, we headed back down to the 2nd village and down a series of steps to the beach where we found a sheltered little nook, had lunch and then swam for the better part of two hours. It was amazing to be able to relax and swim and not be surrounded by other people. This is probably the most amazing part about Gageodo: you can actually get away from the people and the noise and the lights and just relax.

On our way back we stopped at the minbak to ask if we could fill our waterbottles. They were more than accommodating and just as we were leaving the lady came out and offered us a huge platter of japchae (made from noodles and vegetables) apparently in the spirit of Chuseok. We sat outside on a raised platform overlooking a gorgeous harbour and coastline while devouring the delicious dish.

After we thanked our hosts we headed back along the road to the main village for a bite in our room before crashing in short order.