Hidden Gems


After a monumental chinwag with Michelle last night supported by Prawn Ramen, Beef Bulgogi and a glass or two, I set off cycling this morning to clear my head. To tell the truth there are few places I have not been to in and around Chungju but could I find new gems in the areas I know well around Tangumdae? I had a friend in mind who will soon have the opportunity to sever ties with the most dysfunctional management team in the world, those at WKC.

Ask yourself a question do you want your life to be average or move forward making it memorable, I know the direction I’m following!

I cycled towards Tangumdae but having downed the ubiquitous 2 litre bottle of water, was side-railed to the little boys room at Terminal. I noticed that “the always on duty” monk has vanished but he had left his calling card, his wooden fish. The Korean version of a wooden fish, or moktak 목탁, is of a simple shape and no design is carved onto the fish and is more oblong in shape. A handle is used for easy carrying for portable use. Moktaks provide a deep, wooden-like hollow sound when struck. He had also left his robe in a Dunkin’ Donuts’ box.

Just before reaching Tangumdae I hit the bane of all cyclists, a poorly made Korean drain whose metal crown is meant to sit in the pavement when in fact 15cm of it protruded into side of the road, ouch sore ankle!

At the entrance to Tangumdae the climb is too steep to cycle and so with throbbing ankle I walked to the top, passing a very comfortable cat on the way.  I noticed the pathway was covered with new acorns, the first sign of Autumn being on the way? Half way up I saw yet another Korean death trap for cyclist or pedestrian.  The quality of finish on Korean buildings and civil works is characterised by its appalling quality, this is ironic when you consider the care that went into constructing the beautiful temples. I also noticed the curious manhole covers have a crying “T” embellished on them. Does the “T” stand for “terrible” or “trouble”?

Having secured my bike near the Chungju Cultural Centre adjacent to the car park I headed down through a wooded are towards the Archery Centre. I passed the saluting iconic hard hatted workman who warns us to veer right so we do not get murdered by stray arrows. The archery centre is beautifully located on the edge of the lake with great views out towards Jungangtap. On this occasion older men were using traditional bow and arrows to try and hit the targets some 150 metres away.

I carried on down the hill to the Daeheungsa Temple, as is usual on the weekend it was alive with worshippers. To the left of the temple is the lake and nestled on the waters edge is a lovely café, below that a water sports centre. Normally only two or three enthusiasts are around but today it was buzzing.

I stayed for 30 minutes enjoying a coffee plus “naughty” donut, then climbed the hill behind the temple to the most famous vista in Tangumdae. History time, there is a unique national instrument in Korea called the Kayagum. Kaya is an old kingdom in Korean history and the Kayagum originated there.
 The Kaya kingdom perished and was occupied by it’s neighbouring Shilla kingdom. Around the 5th Century a famous musician Uruk a master of the Kayagum was exiled to Chungju province.

The rock where I stood was Uruk’s favourite place and he came here to sing sad songs about the fall of his Kingdom. The “Tangum” part of  Tangumdae means “playing the Kayagum”.
 Unfortunately the rock at this busiest time of the year has fallen victim to an attempt at modernisation.  When I came to Chungju in February the rock was surrounded by an old wooden walkway and young couples posed for pictures with the gorgeous view in the background.

It’s now been bastardised and left like this for over 12 weeks. The tranquility spoiled by a mobile generator, which grumbled like a Bulguksa temple guardian. Then silence, it was 12.30 pm and once again time for them to clock off for the day. I am sure that when completed and covered with wood the structure will blend and be softened by the foliage but at the moment its grotesque and at the pace of construction may just be completed for the World Rowing Championships that arrive in Chungju, August 2013!

I forced myself through the sculpture park returning to where my bike was parked. I hadn’t discovered anything new but it is a beautiful area to stroll on a Sunday morning. I then realised that I had never tried to walk further into the peninsular that juts out into the lake.  This is because there are no clearly marked paths signposted and there is a virtual shear drop on one side to a main road and on the other to the water of the lake. Wandering beyond the exercise park I saw a trail to the left and decided to follow it.  It was a pleasant wooded walk with dragonfly and butterfly in abundance but the views obscured by pine trees. I spotted some coral, how far are we from the sea Mr. Bond?

I then saw a slight break in the trees and a path downwards so I followed it and discovered a “new” spot to chill in.

This is the site of a burial mound with views across the river. I sat here in the shade for a good 20 minutes, it overlooks the main road but is surprisingly peaceful. As there was no indication of the inhabitant of this burial place, I looked back to a great battle that took place in this area and decided it could be “The Tomb of the unknown soldier of Tangumdae”.

At the time of the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, there was a great, but in reality miserable, battle in the neighbourhood of “Tangumdae”. 

The battle resulted in the defeat of the Korean army leaving many dead and injured. The General of Korean Army was Shillip, he was an able general but made an serious tactical error at Tangumdae.  
His tactic was to fight with his troops backs to the Namhankang ( Han river) river and the cliffs of Tangumdae.  He used cavalry soldiers as his main strike force and although the Korean army fought bravely for their country and the Chosun dynasty, they could not defeat the strong Japanese army.  
In the end, General Shillip stared defeat in the face and jumped in the Namhankag to killl himself.
 Such a sad tale!

I cycled from Tangumdae having found somewhere new as was the days intention, I headed to the Martial Arts Park having remembered a wildlife sanctuary was situated around a km down the lake and I had yet to spend time there.  This area had well constructed walkways and many places to sit and enjoy the cranes and other wildlife, part of the area had been given over to fishing.

From here I had spotted a land locked ship and set out to find it.  Cycling through an old village and passing an old Confucian temple I was halted at a railway crossing and thought of how suicidal Frank will become if he doesn’t get out of that academy in Cheonan.

This ones for you Frank! I emerged onto the horrendous dual carriageway on which I travel to Eomjeong every day.  I remembered at this juncture that tomorrow is the start of a new semester with no timetable, the removal of third grade classes and renewed attempt to create a soccer team of winners, :-). I crossed the main road and reached the ship stuck in a field of black tarpaulin. Bizarre but interesting,

I assume at sometime in the past this had been a restaurant but how did it get there? It was around a km from the lake and sat on a hill, extraordinary but this is SK! I travelled to the other side of the field to get a better look and saw that it could have been a restaurant or a nightclub and it was of Russian origin. I saw a sign for City Hall and so followed the main road over a hill, flanked by fields of corn and other agricultural produce and 5 minutes later came to the monstrosity that is City Hall.  opposite here is an excellent Samgyetang restaurant but it was a thirst I had not a hunger.  I grabbed a vitamin water and chilled for a few minutes before cycling through downtown and the Chungju markets, at this point I felt rain and headed home picking up a large tub of Vanilla Ice cream. I showered then sampled it before observing my belly and syncing it with the freezer.  Guess what after the spicy prawn ramen I have just eaten, it’s coming out again!

4 thoughts on “Hidden Gems

  1. Wow great stuff you should write a travel book. wish i was there seeing the sights and sounds

  2. What an adventurous day you had!
    It’s so cool seeing those older folks practicing archery. I once heard that the best bow came from Korea, The best spear came from China and the best sword came from Japan (I guess it’s the Samurai’s Katana). I don’t know for sure if it’s true or not.
    By the way, the cat did seem so comfortable 😀

    • Hi, yes it’s funny to see the archery some 50 meters from the water sports and after watching the Olympics the unsophisticated old equipment they use compared to the modern technically advanced bows. G

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