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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Naganeupseong Village and Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve (Day 231)

Our plan for the day was to visit the Naganeupseong Village and Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve.

Google informed us that a bus was in 7 minutes so we scurried down to the bus stop and waited and waited. The screen by the side of us showed what buses were due. No sign of the no. 63 or 68. Never mind.

We realised that it was rather a hot day and Tim was overdressed in his trousers, so he popped back to get changed whilst I sat and watched the world go by. An elderly gentleman offered me a sweet, another missed his bus, the driver was too impatient, so when the next one arrived, I made sure he got on it. Another elderly man who sat beside me seemed intrigued by me. He pointed to my bangles and my necklace. I had been sitting reading my book on my phone and so when I scrolled the page over, he then tried to do the same, and then pushed my phone towards me as to say “Put it away”. I wonder what was running through his mind.

Tim returned and the first elderly man gave him a sweet as well. The sun was too hot for Tim, so went and sat in 7/11. Perhaps in hindsight, I should have done the same, but I would have missed the crash of 2 cars colliding into one another. Fortunately, no-one was hurt, it was interesting watching the Policemen taking photos and spraying the floor. The two cars, owners and police were there for ages and it was just a small prang. Finally, our bus arrived about an hour later.

We arrived at Naganeupseong Village. It was set up as a fortress in 1397, surrounded by sand to protect the area from Japanese pirates. 230 later General Im Kyeong-Eop reinforced the fortress with stone, again to protect the area against Japanese invaders. Amazingly, the fortress is still here today and inside about 100 families still live here in the traditional clay built homes with straw roofs. Many are farmers or carry on the traditional arts and crafts of the region. That is also one of the reasons making this traditional village unique. Unlike other famous traditional villages in Korea where aristocrats lived, Nagan was and is occupied by “commoners”, ordinary local people.

We didn’t visit all the official government buildings, we preferred to wander around the village, seeing the houses with their large clay Kimchi pots and neat vegetable plots. We did visit the monument for General Im Kyeong-Eop, a very popular general in this area. When he was leaving the region for good, the local people gathered at his house and sobbed, then followed him for 3km as he was leaving. After his death in 1647, the villagers then built the monument commemorating his life and over 370 years later they still celebrate his life each year.

We stopped off and ate a very delicious Bibimbap. (Bibim translates as “mixed” and bap is “cooked rice”, so “mixed rice”). We so enjoy eating these. They are basically a bowl with rice at the bottom, then a variety of vegetable, perhaps seaweed, grated carrot, cucumber, cabbage, bean sprouts which are either raw or sautéed and then a protein such as egg, meat or fish (which can be raw – see Day 227). We then mix the ingredients really well, As Shin advised, the more you mix the better, and add chilli pepper paste. We will definitely be making this when back home.

After our lunch we wandered some more, seeing ancient trees, visiting the old jail and walking on top of the fortress to get a great view of the village and surrounding area. An incredible place, very peaceful and amazing that it exists in this natural way today. Mind you, I have a feeling that when it is the tourist season, the place is very different, with lots of touristy activities taking place.

Time to get the two buses to Suncheonman Bay. Or was it? Well, the 2pm bus was nowhere to be seen so we waited and waited. In fact, we waited for 90 minutes! Tim kept popping into the local supermarket to cool down and bought some beakers of ice. Again, I enjoyed sitting there watching the world go by, school children playing opposite. People parking literally anywhere, jumping out of their cars, leaving the engine on, to dash into the supermarket and out. One man was waiting with us and occasionally would say something. I haven’t a clue what. I would grin, hoping that was the correct reaction. Eventually, the bus arrived. We are so used to travelling in cities where the buses are very regular, it was a bit of a shock that the buses here are so infrequent. A bit like being back in Warmington!

Luckily, our transfer to the 2nd bus was perfect. We arrived at the bus stop at the same time as the bus and the journey was a lot shorter than Google predicted. We paid for our tickets to the Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve. My first impression of this was disappointing. It looked very touristy and not anything like a photo I’d seen of the place. However, as we walked passed the main centre, over the bridge, we then came to the wetland area. Ah!

Thickly covered fields of tall reeds rustling and gently swaying like waves of the sea from the breeze, it was quite hypnotic to watch. As we looked down from the boardwalk, there were loads of crabs scurrying about, most camouflaged being the same colour as the mud, the occasional ones standing out with their orange claw. At the bank of one of the river inlets, we noticed some very strange creatures flipping about. A mix between a fish and a very large tadpole looking like they got stuck at an evolutionary stage. They were Mudskippers which are fish with frog-like, protruding eyes, torpedo-shaped body, muscular pectoral fins and two dorsal fins. They are able to survive on the ground at low tide, breathing using its gills and it was funny seeing its dorsal fins popping up and down. Apparently, Mudskippers can be kept as pets and be trained to be fed by hand. I can think of better pets to have!

Suncheonman Bay is renowned for attracting a large number of rare birds such as the hooded crane, white stork and black-faced spoonbill. 140 species of birds can be found here, I think it’s the wrong time of year to see these. We did see a couple of White-Naped Crane, with their characteristic red patches around the eyes, and a funny little bird, a bit bigger than a sparrow, somehow clinging onto the top of the reeds making a “Rip, Rip” sound.

We were about to head back when I noticed a swing bridge with a sign saying route to Mount Yongsan Observatory. We decided to walk up the gentle climb to the Mount. I am so grateful for all the people who put in the effort of making these walkways for people like me so that we can see amazing sights. As we got to the top, it was an hour before sunset, so we stopped and waited and waited. At least we knew that the sunset would definitely turn up! It did. Not magnificent, still lovely experiencing the colours changing and looking down over the bay, seeing strange circles of reed beds amongst the mud banks and the tiny boats in the bay.

Unfortunately, by this time I had the most splitting headache. I very rarely suffer from headaches – and this one was a full-on pain right across my face, drilling into my teeth. I kept thinking “this too will pass”, knowing that it will eventually, trying to relax as best I could. As we descended down the mountain, each step was like a further pounding in my head. Alongside this, we needed to avoid the many crabs and frogs scampering across the paths and the crowds of mosquitos that had come out to play. We even put my umbrella up to stop them from flying into our faces.

We survived, got back just after 9pm and after a cold shower, it was straight to bed for me. Now was it too much sun or lack of caffeine that caused this? Or both? This too did pass.

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