My friend Alan visited Chungju on Friday arriving late (around 10) in the evening. After a convivial couple of hours in the company of Michelle and Carissa, we got our heads down ready for a circumnavigation of Imperial Lake on the Saturday.
It’s Kimchi season in SK and Chungju is awash with smell of cabbage. The recipe for Kimchi is a three step process. First, the cabbage needs to be soaked and salted. Second, the marinade has to be prepared. Lastly, the cabbage is combined with the marinade and left to ferment for around three weeks. Some of the fellow GET’s are off to Seoul next weekend to learn “how”.
The weather forecast was good but on waking up it was dull, misty and cold. After breakfast bagels (bacon, cheese and egg) we cycled down to Tangumadae Park which was barren of life and looking jaded after the fall of leaves in the previous couple of weeks. It’s still a great place to amble and find some respite from the noise of central Chungju. This Saturday there were more pigeons than humans; no archers; no water sports enthusiasts; no Buddhists, the peace and quiet lovely. As many visitors are, Alan was less than enamoured by the “sculpture” park but enjoyed the beauty of the area.
We continued on the perimeter of the lake visiting the carved stone Buddha and following the recently completed cycle ways to Jungantap, passing the pontoons being leveled for the World Rowing Championships 2013. The park was also deserted except for another less than thrilling army of sculptures. There is a monumental construction project to create a grandstand, boat housings and accommodation for the above championship, one can only worry what will happen to the facilities once the “event” is over, another white sporting elephant?
Continuing our circumnavigation we passed the now empty rice paddies and the harvested fields of chilli and what looked like a variety of turnip. We climbed the elevated cycle path descending towards the dam. The fishermen had absconded from the fish factory adjacent to the lake and the army range had fallen silent. Other than the odd car passing and farmers shifting the final remnants of crops before winter life was none –existent.
Temperatures have started to drop and the sharp winds started to blow, not to mention reports of snowfall in Cheonan, so I guess winter is officially here. The forecast is for a humdinger with record lows, Korea has the coldest climate at this latitude because of Siberian winds. Anyone who has lived here during a winter doesn’t need that information just ask Michelle and Carissa. It gets COLD. The wind bites. I am ready! Much of our cycle back East along the lake was into a headwind, cold enough now but I can only imagine its impact in a few weeks. I had three layers of thermals but could still feel it. The coldest month will be January and the average winter temperature is around -5C; it begins to warm up in March.
For farmers it’s an abhorrent life. The average Korean farm is tiny; most are a few rice paddies with some diversification into horticulture and livestock. Most farms are scarcely profitable and agriculture policy is more an arm of welfare than of economic growth; farmers are old and getting older, younger people have left for a wage in the cities. In all my travels around Korea I have only once seen anyone youngish working a farm that was in Suanbo in April last year.
We crossed over the lake and into the lakeside park at Mokhaeng which has undergone recent development with a pitch and put golf range, water feature, water gardens and a soccer field plus the usual gym paraphernalia. On Saturday a disabled (I think war veterans) event was taking place on the pitch and putt, they used oversized orange balls and what looked like clubs with enormous heads.
We arrived back at Sang Ji mid-afternoon in need of a nap prior to our planned meal at Bella Luna and beers at Jazz and Sandro. Bella Luna was busy, we had to wait for a table, the food was as usual good rather than inspiring and the wine too much on the wrong side of sweet. At J & S I tried the Red Rock beer which was excellent and the music as always fantastico, Jazz and Blues, Ms Simone et al. Alan had what he described as fabulous Ginger, Lemon and Honey Tea.
Sunday saw a beautiful sunny but cold morning and a sojourn towards Konguk University to visit the Danhosa Temple and Chungnyeolsa Shrine for Lim Chung-min. The temple was constructed in the time of King Sukjong of the Joseon Dynasty. The temple contains the Danhosa Cheolbul Jwasang a sedentary Buddhist statue. The Shrine was constructed in 1697 during the reign of Sukjong, to commemorate General Im Gyeongeop (1594-1646) a famous general during the reign of King Injo, Sukjongs father. It was ruined but reconstructed in 1978. From here we passed through the uni and carried on cycling around Hoamji Lake . We visted the Iron Buddha Temple and Gwana Park. The park has government offices from the Joseon period.
After some attempts at constructing panorama’s we headed back through the market to pick up Alan’s gear before we landed at the terminal to connect with Alan’s bus back down South towards Okcheon via Cheongju. Apparently in Cheongju he had the unfortunate experience of coming across yet another obnoxious demon of a bus driver which caused delay in his homeward journey. Alan leaves Korea (one year being enough for him) and heads of for UEA for his next teaching assignment. He has fond but also many irritating memories of his stay in Korea.
Next weekend I have been invited to witness a ceremony relating to FOBY’s ancestors near to Suwon, I’m looking forward to it, should be interesting.