Immigration, Jikji and a Fowl Lunch


On Wednesday there were school tests and my classes were cancelled, I therefore requested that I should travel to Cheongju to order a replacement Alien Card. I pre-booked and appointment for 11.50am and with head shot and 24k in hand headed south by bus on highway 36. Thursday was a national holiday as it was Memorial Day honouring the fallen from the Korean War, I’d decided to stay overnight in the city.

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I arrived at the Immigration Office some 30 mins early and a very helpful gentleman fast-tracked my application for a replacement card, a necessity, for re-entry after my summer vacation in Beijing, Bolton, Belveze du Raze and Shanghai. I’d passed my Hotel, The Gallery, on my way into Cheongju and as it was 7km from the Terminal I’d decided to take a walk there after my appointment. Google maps once again was a pain the much maligned Apple Maps worked perfectly.

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I meandered through the back streets and alleyways stopping at small parks with exercise area, a stream, lively schools and markets.  I saw military recruits playing soccer tennis each with a fag firmly planted between their lips, alternately shouting, dragging and spitting! I reached a covered market which appeared to span two blocks.  Unlike my home town of Chungju, where the market is busy most days, this particular marker resembled a scene from The Prisoner. Only one vendor was open, the Butcher and two huge meat carcasses hung in front of two men beavering away on their cuts.

My Maps indicated that Chungbuk University was a further 15 minutes walk and on my way to the hotel, so that is the direction I took.  I entered through a side gate passing a woodland and a large roped off grassy area.  The building opposite me was labelled N1.

Chungbuk National University (CBNU) is located in the southwestern part of Cheongju, the capital of Chungbuk Province. The University is made up of 12 colleges with a total of six schools, 63 departments, and six graduate schools. In addition, there are 29 research institutes that serve as adjunct centres for faculty research activities. Other supporting organizations include the University Libraries, the University Museum, the Centre for Research Instruments and Experimental Facilities and the University Computer Centre.

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It seemed from the App that my hotel was a further 15 minutes walk away and so I decided to wander around the campus. I came to an artificial lake within a small landscaped park with adequate seating.  The park contained some simple and uninspiring sculptures and lots of courting couples. I read my latest edition of SNAP the online Hipstamatic Magazine and enjoyed the relative peace and clam of the campus. I’m used to loud conversations fuelled by a little Soju or Makeoli and often irritated by the whine of young Korean women who use a whining technique (that of a small child) to get their own way with male friends and boyfriends. Here was all peace and calm.

I left and booked into my hotel, the service surly and unprofessional, the room fine once FOBY’s text had deciphered the air conditioning remote for me. My room clean and well-appointed but it also hosted a broken window and a bathroom with a swarm of flies. The windows as usual had never seen a shammy and the lounge areas would have please Miss Haversham. Later that evening I revisited the university area which is very lively and enjoyed some top-notch baked chicken.

After a “European formulae breakfast that provided luxurious service” FOBY (who had driven the 40 minutes from Cheonan)  and I headed for a 6 minute drive to the Jikji.

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Jikji is the abbreviated title of a Korean Buddhist document, whose title can be translated “Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests’ ZenTeachings”.  Printed during the Goryeo Dynasty in 1377, it is the world’s oldest extant book printed with movable metal typeUNESCO confirmed Jikji as the world’s oldest metalloid type in September 2001 and includes it in the Memory of the World Programme.

Jikji was published in the Heungdeok Temple in 1377, 78 years prior to Johannes Gutenberg‘s acclaimed “42-Line Bible” printed during the years 1452–1455. The greater part of the Jikji is now lost, and today only the last volume survives, and is kept at the Manuscrits Orientaux division of the National Library of FranceThe Korea Times describes the Jikji as  “an invaluable text of Buddhism”.

The actual museum, whilst hosting an important historical record and having welcoming staff, is full of replicas and extremely boring.  The history of print, minus William Caxton, is celebrated. The setting is more inspiring as walking trails litter the park behind and the site of yet another burnt down temple sits in an elevated position above the museum. Here I saw some lovely Lantern Plants and an early violet Lotus plant.

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Another 20 minutes drive away in the mountains above Cheongju is Sangdangsanseong Fortress. A fortress has stood on the mountain for over 1,000 years. The original construction of a fortress in this location began during the Three Kingdoms Period. What we see now is a Joseon fortress built from or on top of a previous fortress. During the Joseon dynasty the fortress went through nine stages of repairs between (1716) and (1836).This fortress is 4.2 km long and 3-4 m high and in the centre is a village home to a variety of restaurants and a beautiful lake. The fortress comprises of a stone wall built around a mountain ridge, like a mimi-me version of the Great Wall.

The first climb to the main pavilion gate, Gongnammun, is a little steep but not too taxing if you are in reasonably good health. From here you can begin walking on the wall itself, we decided to walk half the wall and then head down for a hearty lunch in the village

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The scenery is breathtaking, though hampered by the hazy weather, so don’t forget your Hipstamatic loaded iPhone! On the way I met an appropriately dressed woman with her husband and daughter, she was bird walking. At the halfway point we relaxed in the atmosphere of the traditional village and enjoyed an organic and fresh meal of boiled chicken, rice, and myriad vegetable side dishes. After this FOBY drove me back to Chungju before taking a nap and heading home to Cheonan.

A great way to spend a day or two.

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