Due to my recent tumultuous decision to leave South Korea in March blogging was blown away by trip planning. The route is in place, the hotels are booked and all but three train journeys in Europe have been secured. Now I’m jumping back to my birthday on the 2nd November when Frank Oh Bok Young and I visited Munyeong Saejae Provincial Park.
The park is the site of a mountain pass and lies on the Great Yeongnam Road which rises over Joryeong Mountain, in Joseon times the road linked Seoul with Busan. This area saw great conflict during the Japanese invasion of 1592. The stone walls and gates in the park were further enhanced to provide greater fortification in 1780.
As on my previous visit there was evidence that a Makgeolli rally was imminent, a number of “hikers” were already in a state of alcohol fuelled utopia. Men held hands but not with amorous intentions but more to do with balance, the busiest building was the lavatory. The area is famous for Omija, a small berry which is purported to have 5 flavours. The berry is used to make a herbal tea, juice and of course to flavour the ubiquitous Makgeolli.
Making haste we headed North up the slowly rising mountain path. The area is spectacularly beautiful but recent rains had made mincemeat of the autumn Maple foliage, at least in comparison to two years ago. We decided against the barefoot walk popularised during a yearly festival in this very location. “The 2014 Mungyeong Pass Bare-foot Walking Festival” was held successfully on August 23 with 3,000 visitors from all across the country.
Don’t they look happy and how times and temperatures change. Todays weather meant the hikers were fully kitted out to repel the elements.
In all its around a 7km return walk between the first and second gates, we had no ambition to extend that to 14km by reaching the 3rd as Suanbo Park Hotel Spa was next on the agenda. As we returned to the car the Omija party was just getting underway but this was not enough to sway our thoughts away from the healing waters.
The spa was busier than usual with “bombing” and “feral” kids disrupting the karma. The spa is becoming a little jaded and in need of some re-modelling but after our short trek it was relaxing and a suitable pre-cursor to our steak dinner at Bella Luna. Before that I managed to slip in a couple of Skype’s to mum and sis.
Bella Luna was quiet but the steak and easily quaffed Pinot went down well. After dinner Frank Oh Bok Young returned home to Pyeongtek and I headed home to watch “Marigold Hotel” and down a couple more vino’s.
To summarise, I had a great relaxing birthday with beautiful views, enough exercise, a relaxing spa, good food/wine and fantastic company. My last in South Korea but one of the best.