She’ll be coming round the mountain around Chuncheon (Day 258)
What a great day and the song "She’ll be coming round the mountain" springs to mind but with bubbles as we journey around the countryside of Chuncheon.
Another bus tour. We do enjoy these here in South Korea. So reasonably priced (£4 each) and we get around and see some of the sites and beautiful countryside and usually meet some great people. Today did not disappoint us.
Our first stop wasn’t on the itinerary. We found out later that’s because the National Museum, which was supposed to be included, was closed due to preparing for a new exhibition. We have experienced this quite a bit here – seems rather odd to us. Anyhow, the stop gave us a fabulous view of Chuncheon and the surrounding mountains and what’s more, it was on a 360-degree glass platform.
Our guide didn’t speak much Korean, however lucky for us, a family from New York were also on the trip and Unha, the Mum, who originates from Korea so very kindly translated for us. And we got to know this lovely family a bit more during the day.
Next stop was Kim You Jeong Literature Village in Sile; a wonderful memorial and celebration of Kim You Jeong’s short life. He was born in 1908 and sadly died at just 29, after writing 30 novels, 12 of which are set in this small and sleepy village. He experienced many challenges, losing both his parents at a young age, getting expelled from University, and his brother wasting the family fortune, so found himself destitute and returned to Sile, where, despite the weight of Japanese colonial rule, he found warmth, resilience and humour amongst the local people.
The memorial had a wonderful pond with stunning lilies in bloom, interesting bronze statues, some representing images from his stories and a couple of buildings about Kim You Jeong and his life, sadly all in Korean.
It was lunchtime and we joined the New Yorkers for lunch. Unha and Ken run a Software company for the Healthcare and such a great couple. We had such interesting conversations; Ken is a real cool dude, very into his music; we had a brief chat about my old punk days and how, due to the internet, the surprise and gutsiness seem lacking now. Unha is delightful and so helpful all day, making sure we knew what time to be back at the bus etc. Their two children were great fun, and we played a couple of games, especially with their young son. I think he may end up being a cool dude like his dad; he has a great humour.
The highlight of the day was the Gangchon Railbike where we hopped on a two-seater bike on an old disused rail track. What a great use for the track. Yes, it is touristy but great fun. The ride took us through the beautiful countryside along a river valley with mountains either side covered with deciduous trees, and neat allotments with maize and many chilli plants needed for most Korean dishes. Tim demonstrated the strength of his leg muscles, I thought we were going to tip off the track at one point, luckily I had control of the brake.
The track took us through 4 tunnels, each with a theme. The best is one with bubbles blowing at us through the tunnel and music playing – Sting no less! The last tunnel was like being in a 1990s disco rave with strobe lighting and booming music. A lovely young couple we had been chatting with was having a great bob in their seats and we could hear their hoots of laughter filling the tunnel. Great fun.
The journey continued with us transferring to a train, back to the coach and onto see the 50m long Gugok Falls. There was a 20-minute walk along a stream to reach the falls and it was lovely to see families sitting along and in the stream, relaxing and having fun. Along the route were 6 blue wooden signs with one word on each, in English and Korean: Ability, Professional, Networking, Colour, Heart, and one other we cannot remember now. We tried to find out what they were about – sadly no-one knew, even at the ticket office.
Our last stop was at the Soyang-gang River, first to see a magnificent statue of a girl, built in 2005 representing a national popular song here called "Soyanggang Cheonyeo", and further along the bank the Soyanggang Skywalk. This is our fifth Skywalk in Korea, and the best so far. We covered our shoes to protect the glass (and a good way of cleaning it) and walked along the 156m of transparent glass. Fabulous. Beautiful scenery, various Western tunes were materialising from the speakers, including Norah Jones, Alan Parsons and a remake of one of George Harrison’s epic songs (Thanks Ken) and a fabulous metal fish statue putting an exclamation mark at the end of the skywalk.
We said a fond farewell to Ken, Unha and the kids and thought that was the end of another wonderful day. Yet there was more to behold. Within a short time of getting back to our apartment, Min-Ji, our host knocked on the door and invited us around. We entered her parent’s apartment to see the table covered in a wonderful assortment of traditional Korean food. We were invited to dinner again! Wow! We had an enjoyable meal, lots of laughter having conversations mainly through google translate and they then invited us for a short walk to sit by the stream.
What a lovely evening. We gingerly tiptoed in the freezing cold water, laughing at our feet turning numb. Min-ji’s Mum was cleaning a rock which we all found highly amusing and then she took my hand and we both stood to balance on it under the night sky. They had brought along two foam groundsheets and we all sat, gazing at the stars. Min-ji’s father was fascinated by the Sky Map App that Tim was looking at, showing the destinations and names of various stars. We could see Venus and Jupiter twinkling brightly. Never did see Mars, even though it was the nearest to Earth for a number of years. Oh well.
What a delightful ending to a wonderful time in Chuncheon. A great city and with the warmest and friendly people. We truly are so grateful.