Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chusok 2008

On top of Gwon-Geunseong mountain. From left to right, that's Aaron, Heather, Lindsay, and Francie with me in front.
Francie, Heather, and Derek enjoying free noodles at Naksana.
The view from the hill at Naksan Provincial Park.
Francie coming down from the top of Gwan-Geunseong.

This year the Chusok holiday was during the week of September 14-21st and we got the whole week off. I stayed in Seoul for the first few days and then 5 friends and I rented a van from the school (we're known as Team Escape!) and headed over to Seoraksan National Park. This park is on the northeast side of the country, about 3 hours away from Seoul. I had been here once before in February, so it was a lot warmer this time! The park has a bunch of mountains and trails and it's about 13 kilometers away from Sokcho, a city of 84,000 on the beach.

We left on Tuesday morning and got out of Seoul with no traffic problems (most Koreans only got that Monday off) and were at the campground by mid-afternoon. We spent that day setting up our tents, looking for marshmallow sticks, and playing frisbee. The next day we got up and went on the cable car up close to the top of Gwon-Geunseong, a mountain. Then some of us hiked the rest of the way up to the peak. It was kind of a scramble up there, but once we got up, we found out that there was a guy with a cart who would engrave your name on a medal for 10,000 to commemorate your ascent! None of us took advantage of that, but we did get a photo.

That afternoon we headed over to a spa in Sokcho that had a bunch of different types of pools with a variety of temperatures. It also had a waterfall pool and a little pool with rocks on the bottom that was for walking on and massaging your feet (I found it pretty painful rather than relaxing!). It was a great place to hang out for a few hours! That night we went back to Sokcho and Lindsay, Aaron, Derek, and I went out for seafood. We found this little place with a bunch of crabs in a tank and ate dinner there. The crab was AMAZING. I'm a huge Dungeness crab fan and this was just about as good. It wasn't quite as sweet as Dungeness, but it was so good that we ate a ridiculous amount with no butter or sauce or anything. They also had some really good rice that had been cooked with seawood and some other stuff and was served in a crab shell. That night we went to the beach for a bit and then headed back to camp.

On Thursday we went to Naksan Provincial Park, about 12 km south of Sokcho. It's famous for a big temple complex known as Naksana. It's a Buddhist temple and has a bunch of little buildings and a 15 meter tall state of Gwaneum, the Goddess of Mercy, that looks over the East Sea. I've been to other temples in Korea, but this is one of the only ones I've been to that was really active. There were lots of people praying, including monks, and wandering around. We got there in the morning and saw this sign that said "Noodles Free 11:30", so we waited around until then and sure enough, they were giving away delicious noodle soup for free (we made a donation), which was a nice surprise! After the temple, we went to the beach and spent a couple of hours swimming, tossing a frisbee, and lounging in the sun.

There was another group of SIS folks in a van who had been camping in another part of Korea and they came up to Seoraksan that day and so we all camped together for 1 night. The next day Team Escape's van got up early and headed back to Seoul. Then we spent the rest of the break gearing up for school again.

The weather was really nice and warm the whole time we were gone (maybe a little toasty even!). I've been ready for the hot and humid weather to be over for a couple of weeks now and on Thursday, 9/25 it poured down rain for most of the morning and *boom*, just like that, it's fall now! It's literally like someone flipped a switch! A week ago at this time I was in shorts and a t-shirt and now I'm in jeans and a sweater!

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