Letters From Wonju South Korea
Hello from Korea,
I arrived in Seoul today after a twelve hour flight from California. I slept most of the way and was able to finish a few books I was determined to finish.
The first thing I noticed when I exited the plane was the smell. Everything smelled differently. I can't explain but it really caught my attention.
I was picked up and we headed out to Wonju from Seoul to begin my work. The city was amazing. The traffic, though, was horrendous.
We finally made it to Wonju about two hours east of Seoul and I was sure glad to get there. I start my job tomorrow and I am ready. I am also excited to get out and experience Wonju and hopefully Seoul soon.
I am tired from my flight. I hope all is well at home.
Hello From Korea,
My friend Park's father rode with us on a bus from Wonju up into the mountains to look at South Korea's biggest Buddhist monastery. The bus let us off at a small town at the foot of a mountain and we walked towards the Temple.
We walked slowly up the hill towards the Temple halls. The road we walked upon was dirt and slanted upward at a good degree. The Temple halls were all painted numerous colors ranging from reds to yellows to greens.
Every piece of wood on all thirty buildings was painted with small oriental designs. It must have taken years to paint everything in such a manner. We walked by statues of elephants standing about ten feet tall with ornaments of offering located all around them.
We passed a large iron bell with intricate oriental designs carved on all sides inside and out. The bell must have stood seven feet tall. A good size log was hanging from the rafters. It looked as if the monks used the log to ring the bell.
Even the log had intricate paintings and carvings. The bell tower was two stories and the bell was located at the bottom of the tower. The top level had a large drum standing about seven foot also that was balanced in the air with rope.
Farther up the hill were located hundreds of Kimchi pots. Or large pots that stored Korean food. They make their food fresh and let it sit in these large ceramic pots for a time. Most of the food in the pots is kimchi or cabbage and red pepper.
Throughout the walk we could hear the humming of chants from all the buildings and saw monks walking along with Korean civilians up and down the roads and through the temples. The monks wore blue robes and sandals which shocked me due to the terrible cold. Yet they walked on as if the cold did not affect them.
The finale of the whole day was the indoor temple located at the entrance to the complex. The father told me to remove my shoes and enter. At first I hesitated but as I entered I saw the most awe inspiring thing I had ever seen.
Three twenty foot gold statues of Buddha stared down at me through the smoke of incense. Off to the sides of the Buddha statues I could see small ornamental carvings and paintings and other small gold statues.
The whole room seemed to stand at least thrity feet tall with the heads of the gold Buddha's barely touching the roof. I figured that this room held centuries of spiritual devotion.
The father had told me to go in and bow to the floor and touch my forehead to the ground. I was too awe struck to follow his orders and only bowed slightly and left quickly.
We left the monastery and headed down the mountain on foot. We stopped half way down to look at some caves that had been advertised on the road. They were vast and beautiful and seemed to only add to the incredible experience of the day.
After the caves we travelled to the foot of the mountain and waited in a small shack, with sliding wooden doors that ended up being a small town Korean version of a convenience store, to wait for the bus to take us back to Wonju.
The town where we waited was small and located in the forest and I assumed that they did not see too many outsiders by the amount of people who stopped by the building to stare at us. Finally the bus arrived and I fell asleep quickly and woke up back in Wonju.
Hello from Korea,
I was invited to dinner in Che-Chen by my friend Parks father. I loaded in the bus and headed to the beaches located at the tip of the pennisula where Che-Chen was located.
When Park and I arrived in Che-chen the sun was setting and Parks father was there to meet us. We walked through the town and ended up at a small restaurant. We followed him into the back of the restaraunt where a small room had a table and a T.V.
We sat on the ground on pillows located around the table and drank our barley water. Barley is added to the water at most restaurants to cover any bad tastes in the water.
We watched a little Korean Basketball and some Korean skit comedies that were kind of funny, even though my understanding of the language was limited.
A portable grill was set on the table and the waitress brought out a large bowl of soup and set the bowl on the table. The contents of the soup blew my mind.
Whole crab and fish heads and for the grand finale, octopus tentacles. The tentacles were pink and large and seemed to reach out of the soup at the person eating in a vicious manner.
I had a little of the soup broth and kept it at that, I did not have enough courage to bit into one of the tentacles. The waitress brought out many side dishes.
Korean eating consists of many different side dishes where you eat a little bit of everything. At least what ever looks appeasing.
I had a few beers with Park and his father and slept on the bus back home. I enjoyed the beach and the town of Che-Chen and will never forget the tentacles in the soup.
Hello from Korea,
My friend Park and his dad took me to a Korean Basketball game today. But before we travelled into Seoul for the game we drove out into the country to the North this time to see "Old Korea Town."
What a great place full of old huts and statues of Buddha. Each hut held within it a remnant of times past. We ate lunch with the curators and spent a long time looking over each artifact.
That evening we drove to Seoul for the game. What an experience. Koreans take there Basketball very seriously and even though it was mid season it seemed like the championship game.
There was more revelry than Monday Night Football back home.
I have had too much Soju tonight and I have to leave I hope all is well at home.
Hello from Korea,
I took a bus into Seoul by myself today to take a look at the city and what it has to offer. Like Wonju and Che-Chen Seoul is full of outdoor markets where you can shop for anything from food, including live squid, to tennis shoes.
I spent most of the day in the markets looking at the items and trying to catch as much of the local flavor as I can.
I figured out the subway and have had the luck of journeying over most of the city today. One of the more memorable moments was the Seoul War Museum.
The entrance to the museum has a twenty foot stone with the names of fallen Samauri carved into it. The inside had artifacts from war starting with the Samauri of Japan and ending with WWII.
After the Museum I stopped for dinner at a local restaurant and had Kimbop (Seaweed and rice rolls usually with radish) and some extremely spicy pepper soup.
It was an amazing place, Seoul, and today was an amazing day..
After much walking I was glad to sit down on the bus and head back to Wonju. I am exhausted but proud of myself for being able to get around without any difficulty.