Saturday, March 14, 2015

Golden Weekend (5.3.14 - 5.6.14): Suncheon Bay

The final leg of my solo Golden Week sojourn into Jeollanam-do last May was Suncheon Bay, the third spot on CNN's Most Beautiful list I'd decided to check off.

Taking the first bus to Suncheon from Naganeupsong because I was sick of standing around with a heavy backpack and sweating wasn't the greatest plan ever; we managed to get stuck in a traffic jam between rice paddies and just sat there for a while. When we got to the bay, I realised I'd once again underestimated a tourist attraction on a major Korean holiday, and that I needed to find a place in the city of Suncheon itself to stay. So, I ended up waiting for another bus after being waved off by a few different pension owners.

I was totally famished and settled for some deeply nourishing fast bibimbap in Suncheon before searching for a place to stay. It took quite a while, but I ended up finding an enormous, multi-story jimjilbang that was also a gym and spa near one of the main stations (after accidentally wandering into the prostitute district).

Because the bay wetlands are one of the world's five largest tidal flat habitats 
(fascinating, right?), they seem to do their best to be eco-friendly.

For how much they ride bikes, though, the folks around here sure are lumpy..

Seriously, you don't even know how much I miss these. It's always $3.50 - $7 for all of this.

I wish I'd been able to take a few pictures inside the enormous bathhouse, because the interior decorating was massively Asian. It included but wasn't limited to a steam room made to look like it was part of a mountain, and dragons. Kinda reminded me of Spirited Away.

That was all in the group sleeping area, though. In the baths, because this was a smaller and more obscure city, I was ogled more than usual, and a group of four or five (obviously naked) little girls ranging in age from maybe 4 to 7 all gathered around me and got awkwardly close to stare into my eyes.

You know, while I was sitting on a little plastic stool washing myself.

It was cute.  

While on my sleeping mat on the floor (which is super comfy, especially when a small walkway naturally forms right next to your head), I decided to go full bird with the whole experience and read this for a while, which I'd taken from work. Not surprisingly for a patriarchal country with suicide deeply ingrained in its culture, most of the tales end with a beautiful young girl killing herself for the good of others.

Because of how many godddamn people were crowded into this place, that many were snoring very loudly, and the fact that a steady trickle of them kept stepping uncomfortably close to my face, I slept for maybe 4 hours. I can't remember at what time I actually got up to leave, but it must have been like 5.
I'd learned from experience that it was never too early to arrive to an outdoor park or other like destination, because there would undoubtedly be dozens of Koreans in their horrible matching hiking uniforms - toting selfie sticks and visors - there already. This ended up ringing true again, because of course, it was a major holiday.

The crowd dispersed quite quickly because the ecological park is so big, but I was pretty upset that the boat tours were already sold out for the day by the time I got back from trekking all around it. At least I'd had somewhere to leave my heavy backpack this time.

 I took a roundabout way in, first walking around the periphery of the park, remembering The Great Fail Fortress of Naganeupseong. No such luck here.

I think this one looks like a stock photo from a tourism website.
These wooden walkways snake all around the park, so that you can get close enough to see the mudskippers and ghost crabs without disturbing the reeds. That small mountain in the foreground is the one I hiked.

I love crustaceans. These little fuckers were really cute. 

I did my best to video the critters, doing whatever critters do:

Here's an example of how I was using two different cameras (trying to get used to a borrowed DSLR for the first time) and why there are so damn many pictures.

 There's that trademark Abrams lens flare we all know and love

The light was reflecting off this water in such a picturesque Disney kind of way, 
but I just couldn't get it.

These traditional burial sites are a common site all over Korea, and especially in the country, where families have lives on farms and plots of land for generations. 

Thanks, life metaphor hiking guide

 I was born and raised in the desert, cut me some slack

This was outside the visitor center building that I recommend not exploring, because it doesn't actually house anything. I can't even remember if there were bathrooms and vending machines. Onward!

That's the sea out there, if you weren't sure

The view was really impressive, so I took a sort of panoramic video of it:

I'm no longer upset about missing the boat tour. Any nature documentary-esque factoids I might have acquired would've all been in Korean anyway.

Before I left, I stopped into the small ecological museum. There was a cool fountain, a mudskipper teapot that I seriously, actually want, and this great statue of a Swiss Army crab atop an appalled cartoon blowfish.

Really. I love earthenware stuff (as you already know if you read Golden Weekend Part 2).

"omg seriously wtf get it off"

Ah, I forgot one in my Konglish sign post.

Here's the fancy (and pricey for Korea, though I don't remember how much it was now) train I took back to Boseong, because it was the only way I knew to get to Gwangju to get a charter bus back to Seoul. It also kinda reminded me of Spirited Away.

While the train ride was pleasant enough to video, the way there was more scenic. Plus, even though I thought I was beating the traffic by coming back a day early, it ended up taking 6 1/2 hours from Gwangju, and as tired, stinky, and still loaded down with that backpack as I was, I ran all the way through the Express Bus Terminal and miraculously caught the last train back to my stop. Phew! A cab from there would've been too expensive, and this semi-staycation was all about not spending money.

I regret not buying that stupid overpriced handmade mudskipper teapot, though. And I'd definitely recommend all three of my Golden Weekend stops to anybody who enjoys getting out of town, places of historical interest, and walking around outside.

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