Around the World in an afternoon at Suncheon National Gardens (Day 232)
After a morning chillaxing, reading and writing, Tim had plotted a route around the world in an afternoon at Suncheon National Gardens via a café to have lunch.
Our usual good food guide usually comes up trumps, but sadly not today. The café didn’t have anything without meat, so I ordered a bowl of rice to go with the customary side dishes. Tim looked at the pictures on the wall of the meals they provided and chose what looked like a thick soup with half a dozen slices of beef. We placed our order and as usual, two glasses and a jug of water turned up. But what is this? It looked like it had been poured from rusty old pipes and tasted like puddle water. Not that I’ve ever tasted a puddle! I refrained from drinking any more than my first sip. Our side dishes arrived, kimchi, mushrooms, some very stringent veg, like the worst part of old greens, however, there were a couple of potatoes…Ah potatoes, it’s been quite a few weeks since I ate one. Yum. My bowl of sticky white rice arrived and Tim’s bubbling steaming bowl of soup. But where was the meat? He stirred it around and found some slivers which tasted more like tongue, plus some glass noodles and spring onion in watery cloudy…er…hot water! Oh dear. Needless to say, it wasn’t his favourite meal. We carried on our journey, helping an elderly lady keep her motorbike upright as she skidded to avoid a car that pulled out in front of her. Fabulous that she was still getting around, she was very old. We reached a path towards the Sunscheon National Gardens we’d decided to visit. But how do we get in? As we crossed over a bridge, a young guy passed by and said hello. We introduced ourselves. Alberto is from Sicily and has been travelling around the world for 4 years, popping back home every now and again. We ended up spending the afternoon together and it was a delight chatting with him. After walking the wrong way into the gardens, we were pointed in the right direction. Just before we got our tickets, I informed Alberto that there is a combined ticket that would cover the Naganeupseong Village and Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve as well as the National Gardens. Regretfully, I discovered this just this morning, too late for us to take advantage, but at least Alberto did. Tickets bought, we went into the gardens, chatting and looking at the beautiful flowers. We were interrupted by one of the guides, an elderly man who wanted to tell us all about the gardens and wetlands. He was chatting away and I could tell that Alberto and Tim were not keen to spend time with him, “Well, thank you, we’d better get on now” I said politely and off we went. The men were relieved. We passed the traditional Korean gardens, up the mount, passed the evergreen trail. I’m not sure we took too much in as we were chatting, sharing travel stories. Alberto loves to trek, having been to Nepal a few times, New Zealand, Patagonia to name but a few and worked in Australia for 18 months at an Apple Farm. This has enabled him to carry on his travels. He is near the end of his 29 days in South Korea, so we managed to pick his brains as to where he enjoyed visiting, in mind that he travels very differently to us. I do feel for Tim. I am sure Tim would love to do more trekking, but my knees are just not up to it and I don’t really enjoy it that much. I used to believe that travelling the world was all about trekking. As we have demonstrated, it doesn’t need to be. I’d love to encourage more people to travel around like this, it is an amazing learning experience. So how did we go around the world in an afternoon? Well, the National Gardens had gardens landscaped in the traditional design of 12 countries around the world. We were intrigued to find out how they represented Italy and Britain. I am not sure Alberto was too impressed with the Italian garden with its box hedges, a few terracotta pots, statues and pergola. The British garden had a fountain in the middle and deep flower beds, rose garden and some aromatic herbs. On the website they describe that the British gardens “resist control and artificiality, instead functioning as spaces where those who enjoy the gardens can return to nature, left free to their imaginations.” Yes – I think our garden was just like that. Other countries included the Netherlands with a large Windmill and clogs; the wrong season for tulips though. Also German, Turkish, Japanese, French, American, South African, Mongolian etc. There were a few other gardens not associated with a country, including one called “The Way to Happiness”, which was my favourite as it included Echinacea, one of my favourite flowers, a bright orange bench and wonderful curved narrow pathway leading to a stream with a large rock to walk over towards a summer house. Very zen-like. The Garden was established to turn a large area of natural habitat into a conservation area. I’m not sure how big the area is as on the internet it says 1.12 square km. It was far bigger than that and I easily got my 10,000 steps in. By 5:30pm we had enough of walking around twee gardens and decided to walk the 3km back to our hostels. And then the heavens open. In no time at all, despite having my trusted orange umbrella, my skirt was soaked through, clinging to my legs as if trying to keep dry. We said farewell to Alberto, hoping that we will meet again on our travels and back to our hostel for a nice hot shower.