Monday, March 21, 2011

Safe For Work

This update isn't exactly hot off the press - we visited Haesindang Park in November last year, but I know you have all been gagging for me to write about it.

The trip to get there was hellish. The park is located in Gangwon-do in the northeast of Korea, and in order to get there from Buan we had to travel via Seoul. We started our journey on Friday night and took the train to Suwon, where we spent an evening rabble-rousing with our friends Craig and Theresa. After a late night and an early morning, we caught a bus and then a train to Seoul's central Bus Station, before boarding our bus to Samcheok - the closest city to the park.

Unfortunately, the weekend we visited was also the weekend of Korea's first snowfall. The scenery from the bus was at first stunning, with snow-capped mountains and glistening flakes, and then it became horrific. The worst accident I saw was a 10-car pile up, and every few hundred metres there was another set of skid marks and a banged-up Kia. I realised the journey was becoming a problem when we got to the halfway mark as our trip was supposed to be ending. The expected four hours became an excruciating eight hour hell, with only one toilet break and a lot of talk about peeing into bottles. Our friends Lauren and Tammy were sensible and had travelled to Samcheok the night before, so we ended up telling them to go on and giggle without us. 

Samcheok is a cute little city with the cheapest accommodation we've had so far - 25,000 won per night Love Motels ($30NZD) Theresa and Craig introduced us to Gimbap restaurants for the first time (see them in Tom's Top Ten) and we settled in for the night.

The park isn't the only thing attracting people to Samcheok, so the next morning we headed towards Hwanseong Cave. Hwanseongul is one of the largest limestone caves in Asia, about 8 kilometres of it has been mapped, and there's a 1.6km tourist walk through one of the entrances. It takes an hour to get there from Samcheok by bus. The entrance fee is 4,000 won and there's a 30 minute walk to the top or a 5 minute gondola. I'd recommend paying the 5,000 won for the gondola, as the walk is brutal. There's a second cave - Daegeumgul - on the hill facing the main cave, but we were in a rush to see some penis.

This isn't the brutal walk to the top, this is the regular walk to the gondola.
The cave is absolutely immense and impressive even to a cave hater like me. To make it more impressive, the Koreans in charge have festooned areas with fluorescent lights and cheesy signs, so as you walk through you can take pictures of the Virgin Mary and the Great Wall of China. We got our sins absolved as we walked across the Bridge of Confessions - convenient!

That penis-like shape is the Virgin Mary.
I got spooked and race through the last 500 metres or so, but not before making a wish to the monk who used to live inside the cave.

Although it's lucky, the terrifying combination of mannequin and cave had me hightailing it back down the hill. My last memory of the cave was that the bathroom smelled exactly like Goody Goody Gum Drop icecream and made me miss home. 

In my next post - dicks!

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