Wednesday, September 27, 2006
So long Korea, So it goes.
So, I am perched at a computer in my hostel where I have spent so much time in the last two weeks I've managed to make my own personal ass groove in a wicker chair. I fly from Seoul to Beijing, China tomorrow and I'm not about to burst into tears about it. So as not to give you the impression that Korea has not been good to me, let me snag about 15 minutes of your time to update you on whats been up and show you a few pics.
After being spoiled rotten (as rotten as kimchi) with hospitality and sight seeing with my old students in Jinju and Jeonju I made Seoul a priority. The city is bursting at the seems with palaces and shrines, all with the same placards saying when they were built, when they were torched by the japanese, when they were rebuilt and when they were torched again by the japanese and then finally rebuilt in the last 40 years. If i stepped foot into one more they would have to make new placards describing when they were torched yet again by a disaffected Canadian backpacker.
I, along with my german friend Jakub went to a Korean horse racing track to lay some bets down on the horsies. We were lucky enought to have a couple korean girls translating what the betting cards read and helping us place bets. In the second race I picked a winner and I bubbled with pride when i went to collect my winnings. Turns out the horse i bet on was a sure winner and i pocketed a cool 200 won (about 20 cents Canadian) which i promptly hucked into a nearby river. All in all it was pretty damn fun to yell at horses with a few thousand koreans.
Jakub and I also took part in the making of a korean movie. A producer came by the hostel looking for volunteers to play the role of lost backpackers in a scene for the movie. I have been preparing for this role for about 5 weeks now. I got to deliver a couple lines and they fed us lunch and gave some boxes of tea which met a fate not terribly dissimilar from the 200 won I earned at the track. The good news is, it will be entered in festivals and may possible be screened at the Toronto film festival next year and the whole experience was a lot of fun.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Cheongyaecheon creek in Seoul. It is an old creek that has been massivly developed into one of the most beautiful places in any downtown area I have seen. I was there with a 65 year old american english teacher volunteer and a chinese guy born and raised in Germany (I dare you to try to imagine that). There was a live musician playing guitar and singing while we sat with out feet in the river drinking Soju and laughing at the little kids that innevitably fall in the drink as they bounce across the rock bridges.
Today I visited the Demilitarized Zone in the north end of South Korea (where the border with North Korea is). The area is still technically considered a war zone so rules are pretty tight. There are few chances to take photographs (unless you want to risk being arrested as a spy) but there are a few museums and relics of a Cold War hangover that just wont go away including minefields, countless barbed wire fences, Hundreds of Korean solidiers with weapons drawn and a 1.5 km long tunnel dug through granit 70 m undergound those slippery North Koreans made after the ceasefire. What little is known about North Korea is that it is a messed up place. it is mountainous like south korea but there are no trees on the mountains as they have been clear cut for fule and so North Koreans can survive a little longer by eating bark. They are on average 7" shorter than south koreans due to malnutrition.
a beautiful photo of jinju on a beautiful day
Cheongyaecheon creek in Seoul. Single handedly made coming to Korea worthwhile.
Me eating roasted silkworm pupaes on the street. beats the ass off of kimchi.
The film crew setting up for a shot
Me with Jakub and the director, stars and producer of the film
North Korea from the DMZ. If you want to see more of the country than this, you have to get a special invitation from the government for one of their tours which involves an armed guard escorting you everywhere, a 10pm curfew, no photography without permission and no talking to locals at a cost of $3000 USD for 4 nights.
another bloody palace as it looked before i snapped and burnt the mother down
Due to rigid censorship laws, I wont be able to make any blog posts while I am in China. I think im going to deviate from my scheduled travels a bit again and go to Hong Kong and directly to vietname rather than go from the south of china back half way to the north pole to fly out of Beijing, connecting in Seoul and heading back down to Hanoi. This time though, no beautiful women await me as motivation.
Kurt Vonnegut books are saving my sanity in insane places. Ive read 4 so far.
Much love, keep the e-mails coming