Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hwanseongul & Haesindang Park

On Sunday we woke up fairly early so we could make breakfast and head to Haesindang Park.

Putting the men to work in the kitchen!

This park is situated on the East Sea / Sea of Japan (debateable name depending on which country you are from) and there are beautiful views of the coastline. However, mixed in with the beautiful views are an assortment of penis statues.
 Now before anyone finds this offensive the Korean’s have a story to go along with these statues. Legend has it that a beautiful girl used to live in the village and gather seaweed. The best place to gather seaweed was a rock in the middle of the ocean called Aebawi. One day the girl’s fiancĂ© brought her out to the rock and said he would be back to get her after she gathered all the seaweed. That night a terrible storm hit and the man couldn’t get past the waves to get the girl. She ended up dying in the storm and from that day on the fisherman in the village were plagued with a bad spell of catch. They spread a rumor that it was from the girl’s soul so they decided to offer carved wooden phalluses as a sacrifice to the unmarried, virgin girl. After that the fisherman in the village started to see an improvement in their catch.

Chinese Zodiac in penis form

Obscene benches

We then headed back to Samcheok in order to head to Hwanseongul or Hwanseon Cave. The cave is situated in the mountains with breathtaking views.

We took a monorail up to the top of the mountain where the cave is located.
taking the monorail up

 It’s a steep incline and we were told it takes about 45 minutes to walk up and it was a very hot and humid day. Hwanseon Cave is one of the largest limestone caves in Asia and the largest in Korea. It has over 6 kilometers discovered and it is said that the whole cave is probably over 8 kilometers. Some parts of the cave are 100 meters high.
waterfall in the cave

It takes about an hour to walk through the entire cave
inside the cave


On the bus to Samcheok

Jon arrived in Korea! We planned somewhat of a couples retreat with Andi and Aaron and went to the east coast of Korea. We rode a bus from Seoul to Samcheok on Saturday morning. The rain from monsoon season had finally stopped and it turned out to be a really nice day.

We all got a late start to the day so we didn’t arrive in Samcheok until about 4pm. We spent some time at Samcheok beach just relaxing. Aaron was all about swimming even though the water was still pretty cold. It wasn’t nearly hot enough for me to get it, but we all enjoyed hanging out there.
Samcheok Beach
Aaron and Andi braving the water.

We then had a seafood dinner together. Quite interesting of a dinner, but not too bad.
Cook your own sea creatures.

We went to information when we got there to try and figure how we were going to do the things we wanted to do and where we could stay. The two main attractions are Haesindang Park (or better known as the Penis Park to foreigners) and Hwanseon Cave. Unfortunately both are about a 40 minute bus ride away from the center of Samcheok in opposite directions. We decided our best bet would be to stay close to Haesindang Park and check it out in the morning then head back to Samcheok and go to Hwanseon Cave. The guy at information told us that there wouldn’t be any hotels in the fishing town so our only option would be a minbak. A minbak is where a Korean opens their home for guests to sleep on the floor. The guy at information told us we would be able to rent the whole house for 200,000 won. We all looked at each other and just told him that was too much and we weren’t looking to spend that much. The woman immediately counter offered and gave us a new price of 100,000. We decided at this price we would at least look at it because any hotel in the area would be at least 50,000 a room, and we wanted two rooms.

Well, it was a good thing we took this minbak! We took the bus from Samcheok center to this very small fishing town. Another man got off at the same stop and helped us call the owner of the minbak and helped us find it since it was dark out. Korean’s often go out of their way to help out. When we walked into the minbak we were pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. It was a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house and one of the rooms even had a bed. They had a ridiculous number of blankets and floor mats to sleep on and the Korean couple showed us everything we could use throughout the house and in the kitchen.
The house where we stayed.
The living room of the house.

After we put all of our things in the house we decided to head out and explore and find a convenience store to buy some things to make for breakfast. Most of Korea has convenience stores or some lights shinning brightly in the street even late at night, except for this small fishing town. We saw a man walking so we decided to ask him where the nearest store was. He actually spoke English really well and decided to show us where the convenience store was. Unfortunately it was already closed by 9:30pm. That is when our new friend, Mr. Kim, decided to drive us 7km away to the nearest open store. Everyone seemed a little hesitant to take him up on this offer except for Aaron, but we all went along with him. Korea is an amazingly safe place and very often you will get people bending over backward to help you. This was one of those cases. After a long day of traveling we headed to bed. After all, we had a long day planned for tomorrow as well.

Natural History Museum

really, no more pictures, please!  
We had a jam packed full day of field trips and fun for the kids. We went to the Natural History Museum in Seoul. We some dinosaurs, mammoths and 3-d movies.   
Seoul from the museum

Seoul over the years

When we got back to school the kids all got leis and we painted their faces in what they referred to as a “Hawaiian” theme.  
my job is really amazing! this was their warrior face, by the way!
After dinner we met their parents at another little kids museum for a show/ musical.

The teachers were probably more worn out than the kids at this point, but we all went out for some drinks and bar food at a local soju house. Remember how we did toast after toast and shot after shot? Well, 90 pound girls can’t keep up and this is where most of the alcohol goes. Still not so sure why “no more” or a polite “thank you, but no thank” don’t really work in this country, but they really don’t.
Anything that can hold liquid under the table and being filled with beer and soju.