Kian in Korea

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Weekend in the Islands

Beach Bum
Originally uploaded by kian esquire.
This weekend a friend and I took a trip to Boryeong, a city two hours south of Seoul by train, to hit the beach and do a little island-hopping. Immediately after leaving city limits, I realized what a good idea the trip was going to be, and that it was a mistake staying in town on the weekends.
One of the first things you see when you get out of the city are rice paddies. A little further along, you start seeing forests. Shortly after that, you have a realization: These are the first trees I've seen in ages.

In Incheon, there's not exactly a plethora of landscaping. It's all cement. Seoul is a little bit better, but not much in the areas that I've seen. But as soon as you get out a ways, it all changes like I didn't expect at all. Green fields, big forests, and an overall beautiful landscape covers everything. The air stops smelling sour and the humidity eases off a bit. Suddenly Korea feels a lot more idyllic than it's been.

Our first stop was in Boryeong, which is where we were planning on taking the ferry to visit a couple of islands. Korea, I've learned, actually has thousands of islands surrounding it, some slightly inhabited, some not at all. The islands are a world apart from the rest of Korea. The people who live in the islands do a lot of farming, they speak with a completely different accent, and seem much, much more relaxed than their city counterparts.

Anyway, we walked around in Boryeong a little bit, and then headed to the ferry. We didn't know what the islands actually had to do on them. It turns out, on our first island, Hyoja-do, that there wasn't actually anything. Except for at the dock, we didn't see any people, either. In the entire island, we bumped into two old ladies peeling garlic, and a man and woman who ran the convenience store. It turns out that we had gotten off at the wrong island. The island across the way had restaurants and a place to stay. But, we had been tromping around on the island for over an hour and the ferry had long gone. No matter! A fisherman delivered us across the straight to the next island on his boat.

Wonsan-do was much bigger than Hyoja-do, which we managed to see all of in an hour. "Much bigger" doesn't mean all that much, though. The only ambient noise was the splash of water, the cuckling of roosters, and the occasional dog barking. Like the earlier realization that I hadn't seen green in forever, the quietness here suddenly made me realize how completely loud the city is.

The next day we headed back to Boryeong to spend some time at the beach. The water was warm, the sand was soft, and the sun was shining. The weather's been cloudy, rainy, and muggy in Incheon for as long as I've been here, so this was the first good weather I've seen since leaving home. Sitting on the beach felt so good, and we had a lot of entertaining Korean people to watch.

And that's that. After the beach we came back to Seoul and then I headed back to Incheon, and I have vowed to spend my weekends out of the city, exploring the beautiful Korea I didn't even know existed until now.


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