I love my birthday. It’s no secret, but it might be news to you. I still act like a 6 year old (as Jon so nicely put it to me) and I am…er…NOT 6 years old. I like surprises and presents and cake and meals in my honour. It’s not my most charming attribute, sure, but nor is it something I have ever felt the need to let go of. Let me have my day, I say! 😀
In the obliging way of those who love you most, Jon took over for my best friend this year to organize an awesome weekend. He got me to take an extra day off, found some friends to sit the puggy, and told me what the weather would be like in our mysterious location so I knew how to pack – and that was it! I wasn’t even allowed to glance at the signs over or near the bus, lest I ruin the surprise. I did, however, read a few road signs and had it figured just sliiiiightly before arrival in scenic Namhae (*scroll to bottom for how to get there). He hadn’t actually deduced when he was going to reveal our whereabouts anyways, so it turned out for the best, if just a touch anticlimactic (his words, not mine!)
We grabbed a taxi from the bus station, and in a tale as old as time, the taxi did not know where our pension was and we wandered lost in the countryside for almost an hour. And yes, the meter was rolling the entire time. And yes, we HAD asked the driver if he knew where our pension was BEFORE we got in the taxi and yes he HAD indicated he did until we were just enough away from the other taxis to get in one. SO. We finally got there (the pension we were staying at going by a different name locally than it did on the site Jon had booked it on) to be told that we couldn’t check in yet. Errrr. Ok. No biggie. I mean, we were god-knows how far from the downtown area at this point and there was nary another building in sight…but…ok. So we had no choice but to plop down on the steps and wait in the heat for an hour. While she cleaned the room next to ours because it seemed the one she eventually put us in was ALREADY CLEAN. Do I sound bitter? I’m not bitter… 😀
We shook it off, got the girl to call us a taxi, and determined through google translate (praise the smartphone!) back and forth just how to ask to be taken to the town part of this, um, town. Our taxi driver was super helpful and dropped us right in front of the market, with the Korean pronunciation of our ‘meeting spot’ and how to reach him when we wanted to go back. He also proceeded to take us by the hand (not literally, but nearly literally, there were lots of shooing motions) to a nearby restaurant so we could have some bibimbap for lunch. We ate, grabbed some groceries, and headed back to our pension to enjoy a relaxing evening with a view.
This is the view. It really is glorious, right?
That helped calm us as the weekend progressed. The pension was not worth the price tag, a disappointment to Jon especially, I think, because he had put such care into my surprise. The amenities promised were lacking: the pool was empty and in disrepair – a major reason Jon had booked it, and the grounds were unkempt and littered with garbage. Not to mention they had a dog tied up to a dog house, placed on cement, with a two foot chain and he barked at random and had to lay in his own feces. It was awful. We didn’t see anyone talk to him or remove him from that little spot in three days (aside from us of course – Jon gave him lots of pats and belly rubs, poor guy).
Saturday we took a taxi up GeumSan to see the beautiful Boriam temple and spent some time up there just soaking in the incredible scenery and the fresh air. It was pretty awesome. We sat and enjoyed a coffee and some good conversation.
After that we made our way down to the ‘famous’ Sangju Beach and found it to be…a normal, sorta dirty, but big beach. Le sigh, you guys. It was not so bad because the weather at that point prohibited us from actually sunbathing anyways, but it just struck us as more of the same at this point. Which is to say, so much hullabaloo about these “can’t miss” sights in Korea when they are CAN MISS nearly every freaking time.
It occurred to me that this aspect of Korea is likely tied to the belief that Korea is the best place in the world (by many (most?) Koreans) and that one of two things are happening here: either people literally believe that is a gorgeous beach and better than most others because they have not compared it to anything else (which is fair – after all, garbage is a constant problem with a population of this size in this dense of a space), or it’s just part of the culture to say everything is the best, in much the same way that they prefer not to say they don’t know something. It strikes a foreigner (like myself) as willful misdirection but I don’t think the intent is anything like that, but just a way of perception and communication that I cannot comprehend. So there’s that.
We did enjoy some corn on the cob – a common street food in Korea that we had not yet taken part in – and found it to be a different kind of corn than we were used to. It’s chewier and stickier, but same basic flavour. We also found a bottle of makali to wash it all down and spent some time reading our books on the beach. Not so bad, after all.
We headed back into the downtown area for my birthday dinner and had a good laugh that it ended up being at Mr. Pizza. There were no other options for veg-o me! My consolation prize (though one wasn’t needed 🙂 ) was to pick out a cake of my 6 year old heart’s desire. And then…to eat it. So. Good.
Full of minor frustrations, it was still an awesome weekend. We ate, we drank, we lounged and read our books and wrote in journals and chitter chattered and didn’t have to worry about much of anything for a couple days. Awesome birthday weekend achieved, I say!
Namhae is beautiful. The scenery is all glimpses of sea, green rice fields, and some rice field steps snaking up through the crevices of the hills. I had a hard time getting many pictures because we were always in a taxi, but trust me that it was quite lovely. I felt very spoiled and relaxed!
We have agreed to stick to Busan for the next while, though, and take a little breather from the Korea travels. Hopefully we will still get up to some things around here so that I can regale you with a story or two! I just found out that I need to have $2000 of dental work done so that’s reason enough to stick close to home. Gotta save for our next adventure elsewhere!
*Getting to Namhae is easy. Buses leave every half hour or so from Busan’s Seobu Terminal at Sasang. Cost is about 12,000 won and the ride is just over two hours. Expect to pay a good deal in taxis once you are there, though, or better yet – opt to rent a car for the weekend.
*I would not recommend our pension, largely due to the price tag, which was not justified by amenities or proximity to amenities (though the view would be hard to beat and the rooms were big and clean). It’s called Mul Janggu or Janggu Stick Pension (depending on whether it is found online or directly in Namhae).