Saturday, 26 September 2009

Juwangsan National Park (Cheongsong Mountains)

I had just met Casey about a week ago and of course since then, we had made plans to go out. His friend, Leylanie, was coming to Andeok to visit him and we all decided to take a nice trip over to the ever-famous Juwangsan National Park (in the infamous Cheongsong……apples…remember?). Ken and I had never been, but we had heard all the rave from the teachers that this park was famous for its mountains and especially popular to visit for its fall scenery during the changing of the tree’s colours.

We met Casey and Leylanie in Casey’s sportin’ crimson car (yes, he bought a car for one year in Korea :)) and drove through the winding road for 35 minutes to Juwangsan National Park.

Before the entrance to the park, there was a little tourist village, enclosing tons of restaurants and food stands. They were selling dried and fresh jujubes, boocheemgae (Korean vegetable and meat pancakes), and plenty of other specialty foods. The restaurant owners kept eyeing us, calling out to us, and gesturing us to come into their restaurants. “Have lunch in my restaurant!” they’d say, already preparing our tables as we refused. Ken bought a bag of jujubes for us to snack-on (obviously he needed snacks for the hike), and we only noticed later on, that there was some fresh green mold on some of them.

We hiked on the trails in the park, viewing the many famous Juwangsan mountains (all of which had striking facial features), only making it to the three drizzling waterfalls and one of the caves (containing a mossy-rocky corridor through which Casey and Ken daringly climbed up, and disappeared…they say they built a good-fortune tower of rocks, but who knows…). The waterfalls didn’t quite compare to the Niagara Falls (probably a million times smaller in comparison…), but the scenery, greenery, and lack of safety-rails around the cliff-edges made the hike quite exciting.

As we were making our way back to the entrance, we met another Native English teacher, also enjoying the park’s trails and sounds. Apparently, there was much, much more to the park passed the three waterfalls, where the hikes would’ve been especially beautiful and fulfilling, and would’ve made us sweat after that point. Oh darn it.

Once again, we came across the vibrant, colourful strip of restaurants and food stands. As the ajummas and ajushees rushed towards us, beckoning us inside, other more strange and appealing items caught our eyes.

We almost walked past one stand, turned our heads, and noticed something that looked like a white peanut brittle (the old ajumma was smashing it to pieces with her hammer). This is Korea. Of course it wasn’t peanut brittle. The brick of what appeared to be solid white clay was in fact, a chunk of sesame-nut taffy. It was about an inch-and-a-half thick, and broke to pieces when struck with the hammer. We peered over the counter, and the teacher who had previously joined us, pointed out of curiousity at broken brick laying on the countertop. The ajumma quickly picked up the taffy and handed it to the teacher. Lesson learned. Never point to anything, just for curiousity’s sake.

Continuing on our walk back to the park’s entrance, we saw the same rice-popping-cracker-machine Ken held dear to his heart. The ajumma immediately saw that we were interested in her product (even though we weren’t) and handed us some sample rice cracker discs. As we happily enjoyed our free samples, she held out her hand to me. “Two thousand won,” she asked. Well, I guess nothing’s free. I picked out W2,000 from my wallet and handed it to her. Miscommunication. She handed me the bag of rice cracker discs that I had unintentionally purchased.

So, we walked, snacking on the massive bag of popped rice. There must’ve been only a teaspoon of rice in each cracker, and a cup of rice making up the entire bag (rice is so versatile, isn’t it?). Then, we pinpointed our lunch – not boocheemgae like everyone had recommended, but a heavenly stand full of golden double-battered corn dogs, chicken popcorn, and sugary coke-flavoured slushies. While we devoured our traditional Korean lunch (just joking), we rested our legs over a tiny dam just outside of the park.

What a great experience. Thanks to Casey, we got a chance to see what was special to our area (other than the apples), and it was definitely worth the trip, just to eat those sweet and savoury and not to mention delectable, corndogs and chicken popcorn.

- Jess

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that you guys are getting out a lot to see the surrounding area. You're both experienced walkers after having lived in Montreal so long and walking all the time! Great exercise!