It's the same when we travel in Korea to any place other than Seoul, Busan, or Daegu. We went to Juwangsan National Park last week and once again we were more interesting to most people than the beautiful mountains and rock formations there. At the campsite I saw a ranger going around collecting the $3.00 fee (awesome!) from everyone. He skipped over us, but came back a few minutes later with three other rangers. None of them tried to speak to us...they just watched the original ranger ask us for the fee in English. I think they were all very impressed with his language skills.
Then while walking around the little town (pit stop, really) we were met with many people who wanted to talk to us. People would come out of their shops and loiter around us smiling hoping to strike up a conversation. When we first came here we were very accomodating and tried to speak to almost everyone who approached us. Now that we're seasoned veterans of 9 months we're a bit more gun shy. Most people we meet this way don't speak more than 10 words of English and unfortunately Jason and I know 15 Korean words combined. This means we have an uncomfortable, halting psuedo conversation that ends up with both sides feeling confused and a bit frustrated, which unfortunately is the way most of my conversations are with my boss. :)
Since we had 9 days off last week, we went to Seoul for a few days after our Juwangsan trip. I desperately needed something to wear in the hot weather other than jeans. We were told to go to Itaewon in Seoul. It's the foreigner area...and has quite the reputation. Almost everywhere else in South Korea is super safe. I've yet to feel threatened or even uncomfortable. The confucian beliefs still run deep in this country. It's so safe that most people leave their bags on an unoccupied seat in the bus terminals if they have to use the restroom! Anyway, Itaewon is not like this. It has actual crime, a hooker hill, and foreigners from all over the world swarming around the place.
Well, to make a long story short...after three hours of trying to spend my hard earned money on some "largey sizey' clothes I was ready to feel special again. The people on the street bumped into me constantly, the sales clerks were rude and told me they had nothing to fit me even when I knew this was not true, and I almost got into a fight with a bitchy lady in a T-shirt shop. I think if I end up moving to Seoul I'll have to develop a thicker skin. I've gotten quite used to the record scratching when I make my appearance. I like being special after all.
We spent almost an entire day lounging around our campsite. It was too hot to venture out from under the trees.
There were dragon flies everywhere there. They reminded me of the mosquitos in the Boundries Waters, but prettier.
After our day of leisure, we woke up the next day at 5:30 in order to get to the top of Juwangsan Mountain before the heat of the day hit. The path to the entrance of the park is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants.
These are lotus fowers. They're a symbol of the Buddist faith and also figure into much of Korean folklore. Their 'cinderella' type story involves a young woman being saved after falling off of a cliff by landing on a lotus flower. Yep, Korean ladies are really skinny.
The insides are strange looking in my opinion. I thought they'd be as delicate looking as the outside. But, no...
We hiked a loop - up to Juwangsan Mountain, across a sadle to another peak, down to a river, and through a canyon to the entrace of the park. We were lucky and only saw one person on the entire hike until we got to the canyon. Most of the folks went there to hang out by the water falls.
Dirt trails are still my favorite.
There were several types of toads and frogs that we saw. This little guy was the best. His camouflage is so good I almost squashed him...which might not be the best thing if he wants to live near a hiking trail.