I was told Jungangtap was cultural Mecca! A must see. I set off knowing that it was about 15 minutes from Peace Park which I have visited before, I know this because on the tourist map it is next door. Leaving my apartment at 10am, I passed Peace Park in about 25 minutes and saw the sign for Jungangtap. I knew I had to cross another bridge and head right, 40 minutes later when I saw a sign to the right I thought I had arrived. I knew the sign to be a cultural site because they are brown like ours at home. False alarm, the sign indicated 150 metres ahead was for a Buddha some 6 metres high carved into the rock face. What it dis not say was it was 50 metres up some very steep steps, then 100 metres down some steeper steps cut into the rock face. You can see the pics in the gallery but it was impressive, particularly as the rock face is shear and descends into Tangheumho Lake. Thankfully they have constructed a platform to make viewing easy for us. The carving is not even mentioned in the tourist paraphernalia. Two hills and another 40 minutes on I saw a sign leading off the road that said the Jungangtap Seven Storey Pagoda was 1km along the Lake front, I had to follow a newly constructed cycle path. What was interesting was they had driven the cycle path through the back gardens of some very impressive piles, no NIMBY’s in SK, when the ministry says develop, it gets developed. The opposite of a Tory heartland, HS2 would take about 2 weeks to get started here not 20 years. Along the path they had created some great wetland area for the bird watchers among you, if it’s not a sparrow, blackbird, cuckoo, parrot or emu I have no idea! I arrived another 10 minutes later to be accosted by a lady beckoning me to participate in free food. It turned out that the car park is turned into a Buddhist shrine and outdoor canteen on a Sunday, I ate my free Bibimbap and headed to the Pagoda. The site is adjacent to an international rowing venue that will host the 2013 World Championships but I am not completely sure if this is true. According to the Head of English at my school all events in SK are called World Championships whether they are or not! Anyway the site has a traditional Korean wooden house, a sculpture park, the Museum of Chungju and the Liquorium, the Museum of Booze. Well, well, well after my 2.5 hour jaunt and my very welcome free lunch the rest was a little disappointing. The Pagoda itself was impressive and the settling lovely but the rest……..the sculptures are appalling, they are generally pre-cast concrete monstrosities. They mainly reminded me of some post-communist graveyard for statues, similar to the one in Budapest. One was interesting so I rotated the picture, you can see a gob and a nose appearing from the turf, if I hadn’t rotated you would have missed it. The traditional wooden house was locked up and Le Liqorium consisted of two huge vats and an array of old bottles, hardly the Guinness Tour in Dublin! Finally the Museum, clearly only for domestic tourism as the only sign I could decipher was for the loo. They had some interesting artefacts but even the dates where in Korean, confirming that learning some of the language and how to count is a priority, even if it is only then I can catch a bus. Which brings me to my journey home, I decide to catch the bus, times were easy to decipher but the stops and destinations were in Hangul so I was knackered. As it was 14.00pm I decide to risk waiting as I recognised 14.10 and 14.45, I was convinced all buses would go to Chungju. At 14.55pm I gave up, the wind had reach a strength and temperature that could only result in frost bite or hypothermia. I set off walking back and of course 10 minutes in the bus passed, then another and another. I carried on walking for another 100 minutes before I saw another bus at the terminus!
Finally things I learned this week:
- Girls and boys play in mixed soccer teams in SK.
- The maps are bollocks!
- I cannot possibly walk everywhere!
- If I do get a bus I shouldn’t expect to get one back.
- When the literature says get the 400 bus this means the 404, 406, 411, 412 or whatever.
- The wind is colder than any I have experienced before.
- I hate the Gobi desert, the winds and dust are from there apparently, same as Beijing in 1990. This is why the older folk wear masks…wise.
- I like my school, the teachers and the kids.
- Everything is as expensive as the UK.
- The supermarkets know nothing about wine, the brands we know are sold off on the bottom shelves. Surprisingly I haven’t had any.
I have assumed today that the poor scaling on the map and lack of directions is definitely due to the fact that they don’t expect us or themselves to walk when cars are available. I thought a nice walk and a bus back, how wrong could I be?