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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

A day out with the oldies in Mokpo (Day 226)

Today was a thoroughly enjoyable day out with a load of oldies visiting Mokpo.

Before our travels of today with the load of Korean oldies, our friend Sei-Woong took us to our hostel which is surprisingly great and very cheap (£17.63 per night between us!) and then walked with us to the Bus Station. Yesterday he found a bus tour for us to Mokpo as we had heard about some treasure being found there so he booked us on it. He is such a lovely man, full of laughter and seems very laid back. We didn’t realise but he had paid for our trip today and tomorrow, so we tried to get money out of an ATM this morning but it didn’t work. He was so kind about it and even loaned us more money in case we went short today. We weren’t too sure what the tour entailed which added to the excitement. One of the men on the coach acted as the tour guide (I’m not too sure he was one though). He didn’t stop talking and occasionally would break out into song. He obviously told lots of jokes as the rest of the coach were laughing away. Our first stop was at Yongcheon Temple near Hampyeong. As we were walking towards the temple I commented on one of the gentlemen’s trousers. They were very groovy with 3 denim materials of different hues. He seemed thrilled and often looked after us for the rest of the trip. It was a typical temple with the four guardians (North, South, East and West) at the entrance. Beautiful paintwork similar to Changdeokgung Palace. As we were leaving, Chung (the trouser man) bought us a ribbon and wrote on it a prayer wishing us good fortune. How generous and kind is that! We climbed onto the coach and our next stop was Hanmori beach. As we descended from the coach, most of the group rushed to the toilet. I noticed a campervan covered with photos of a couple in various locations around Europe and Russia and was intrigued. In the open window was the man from the photos, so I said hello. Straight away Park invited us in for coffee. What a delight! He already had the Italian Moka pot on the hob and poured a delicious coffee for us both. The van was very well kitted out with Tupperware pots screwed under a shelf each with different screws, nails and hooks in them and other paraphernalia. I think Park and his wife travelled around Europe and Russia last year in just 3 months. Park phoned up his wife as he said she spoke better English than him, a quick chat and then we needed to go as sadly people were returning from looking at the sea and climbing onto the coach. What a shame, we would have loved to have stayed with Park for longer. (He did invite us to his home, so hopefully, we can take up his kind offer.) It was lunchtime, we parked up at Hampyeong, which is known for its butterfly festival. Many of the railings, street lights and buildings were adorned with butterflies. We didn’t see many fluttering about though. Our lunch was a traditional Bibimbap, we did mention twice that I didn’t eat meat, including using Google translate. My first meal with cooked beef strips was replaced, and then I realised that the second bowl had raw beef in it this time! I picked it out and gave it to Tim to eat. We sat on the floor with crossed legs. I do struggle to sit like this for a long period of time. All the oldies sat this way, I reckon there are not many hip replacements between them. After lunch, we reached Mokpo and visited the Kim Dae Jung Nobel Peace Prize Memorial Hall. What an amazing leader Kim Dae Jung was for the Korean people. I found hearing his story to be very moving. I am so glad that he was recognised for his work for democracy and human rights here as well as for peace and reconciliation with North Korea. He was first nominated got a Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, then a further 14 times. Finally, in 2000 he was given the prize and was met with much praise around the world. His speech was so humble, focusing on others and concluding that the honour should go to the countless people and his colleagues who had given themselves willingly to democracy, human rights and the dream of national unification. An incredibly selfless, passionate visionary who was imprisoned, under house arrest 55 times and nearly murdered all for his belief in democracy and freedom. When he was finally elected as president in December 1997, he devoted himself to recovering the country from the brink of bankruptcy. He introduced a social insurance and national basic livelihood systems and even invested in the Korean culture and arts industry. He built great relationships throughout the world strongly believing in being a global citizen (Amen to that), and with his solid faith, forgave North Korea, opening up the beginnings of a reconciliation and paving the way for a brighter future for all Koreans and other peace-loving peoples of the world. What an incredible leader. We certainly need leaders like this today. As we were leaving Chung had bought us a pencil each. Perhaps we reminded him of his children. Very sweet. At last, it was treasure time. It turned out that the treasure was in the National Maritime Museum in Mokpo. The museum was very well laid out, which included relics of two shipwrecks from 11th and early 14th century. One of them was massive, and in the background was a video of a similar ship being in stormy weather, adding to the drama of the exhibition. Thousands of priceless items including crockery, pots, coins etc that had been salvaged were on display and a video of the local fishermen that netted some of the treasure, so discovering the whereabouts of the shipwreck was shown. That must have been so exciting for them. During one of our stops, some of the men popped off for a drink. It was so funny as they were very late getting back on the bus and were extremely tipsy. Chung took a photo of us and kept saying how beautiful I was and how wonderful Tim was and another man was close to tears when he found out Tim used to be a Commando. He even gave Tim a little tie pin as a gift! Our day surpassed our expectations. Wonderful generous people with great sense of humour and some informative and fascinating places to see.

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