The Magical Mystery Tour (Day 227)
Another magical mystery tour today. Where are we going? What will happen? The description was scant so let's see what happens.
There are advantages and disadvantages of going on tours. Some of the advantages are that the travel is easier, we get to see more places (especially for us as we have been known to go the wrong way), we get to know a few people (even with the language difference) and it can work out cheaper. The disadvantage is that we are restricted to go where the coach is going and by their time scales. Our tour today was to Gangin, south of here. We left Gwangju on time and the coach was packed. The average age was slightly lower than yesterday, by a year or two! Perhaps the man yesterday was the official guide, as today we had a very nice lady stand up to talk to the group. If we could have understood it, the tour would have been even more of a bargain. For less than £7 each you get a whole day tour, discounts at various sites (which are all cheap) and a very knowledgeable guide thrown in. The sun was shining and it was lovely to view the countryside; many small paddy fields, long semi-circular greenhouses, rows of tomato plants, maize and lotus plants on the lowlands behind a backdrop of the rugged Wolchulsan Mountain and hills covered with a mix of native trees of bamboo and maple. Just before we arrived at our first destination, the heavens decided to open. The tour guide looked concerned and I could see why. Our stop was at the crossing for Gaudo Island and the only way across is by foot on the “shaky bridge” as it is known. Umbrellas up and off we go, over the suspension bridge to the island, the only inhabited one amongst the eight small islands along the 80 km bay, home to about 14 households. It was such a shame that it was raining so hard as from looking at the scant tour description, we probably were supposed to stay on the island longer to explore, see the views and variety of flora along the 2.5 km circular path around the island. Plus there is a zip line from the top of the island which would have been great fun to do. But not for today. Just before we hopped onto the bus in our rather damp clothes, we passed by a huge fish made from recycled material. Great to look at but a sad reflection of what we are doing to the sea. I was expecting us to go to Gangjin Celadon Museum which has a wide variety of celadon pottery from 9th to 15th century however instead we went to the Korean Minhwa Museum. This is turning out to be a bit of a magical mystery tour! ` Minhwa (Folk) Art is mainly painting by self-taught artists involving natural themes with magical aspects protecting the owner from evil forces. When we arrived a very nice young lady with excellent English took us around the ground floor describing some of the artwork, whilst the rest of the group went into a room to watch a film about the museum. She informed us about the meaning behind certain paintings; one included some magpies in a tree which represented hearing good news and a tiger below, keeping bad spirits away. As we walked from right to left in front of the painting it looked as if the tiger’s eyes were following us. We went on our own upstairs passed a wall of colourful tiles painted by local school children. In one room was contemporary Minhwa art, another had painted fans and the last room had Korean Erotica. That was a bit of a shock and the paintings were quite explicit! We had to rush back, everyone was waiting for us despite the fact that we got back by the required time – a pattern for the rest of the day! I bet we were popular! Perhaps in Korea, if the time to be somewhere is 2pm, then that means 1:50pm. Lunchtime next and we visited a small coastal town of Knotto. We wandered around and found a recommended raw fish restaurant. I wasn’t too keen. Outside many restaurants were fish and eels swimming around in large tanks. At least we know the fish is fresh. Tim had beef and octopus Bibimbap (cooked) and I had raw fish Bibimbap. It is weird. If the raw fish was on a slab of sticky rice – sushi style with a side salad of vegetables I would have enjoyed it. But because it was all mixed up, I wasn’t so keen. The waitress was a delightful young lady who spoke excellent English. Apparently, she had worked in Greece for 7 years (still doesn’t explain why her English is so good!) On the next table to us was a group of middle-aged ladies who all kept saying the odd word in English and finding this to be very amusing. There were lots of grins and laughter across the two tables. When we left the restaurant we could hear music and singing so followed the sound. On the pier was a guy singing, a lady on electric drums and a saxophonist. The guy persuaded one of the ladies we met in the restaurant to come up and sing. She had a fabulous voice. All her friends got onto the dancefloor, jigging around, and then she came and pulled us down to join them. Later we discovered that one of the elderly gentlemen on our tour was taking photos of us! His name is Kim, such a delightful man. His English was better than our Korean. He kindly sent us the photos, we discovered later that he took a few more of us later in the day as well! I think we ended up being part of the tour sights! The Jangheung Chungnam-jin Observatory was next on the list where we could see the reclaimed land used for paddy fields. Our tour guide asked one of the staff to show us around which was kind of her. I think she was concerned that we weren’t getting such value for money as the rest. Then we went onto the Boseong tea plantation, the only tourist tea plantation in Korea. A beautiful cedar forest greeted us at the entrance and after a short incline, we came to some steps to the tea plantation. I ran up these steps, pleased with my fitness levels, only to be faced with a lot more steps around the corner! Ah – not so fit! We eventually got to the top of the pathway to see stunning views despite the cloud and drizzle. The plantation was neat stripes like large snakes zigzagging down the mountain side. Sadly time was ticking and we needed to get back to the coach. I think we could have stayed there for at least another hour. As we got back (nearly last) the tour guide gave us a bag with two cobs of cooked sweetcorn. It was from an elderly lady who was sitting behind us, she was so humble she didn’t want us to know. How kind. The second day that we have been given a gift from someone on the bus. Our journey back to Gwangju was uneventful with Tim sleeping next to me for most of the way back. When we returned we met Juhwang Jeong. Our friend Shin introduced us to him as he originates from Gwangju. What a delightful young man. He was on one of Shin’s NLP courses for a year and now works in the police force. We had such a lovely evening with Juhwang, chatting away about a whole multitude of subjects, getting to know one another more. After our meal, we strolled around a very nice area of Gwangju with lots of coffee shops and interesting independent crafty shops. I’d like to return there during the day. Photos later, we then grabbed a taxi, who needed us to direct him to where we were staying otherwise this could have been part of the magical mystery tour as well!