Trip Start Aug 28, 2009
48Trip End Sep 28, 2010
As soon as my Saturday morning classes were over we made our way out to Suwon's bus station and jumped on an express bus for Gwangju, a city three hours to the south. It wasn't cheap, but the bus was without a doubt the most luxurious I've ever ridden on, with more room than a business class seat on an airline
We arrived soon after 8pm, found a hotel and then went for a walk through the small centre of the town in search of some dinner. Haenam was typically Korean, with exactly the same shops, convenience stores and interiors as in Suwon and Seoul, but it certainly had more of a rural feel to it. We attracted a few more looks and fewer smiles than in the north, but I put this down to the political views of the region. Jeollanam province was a lot more left wing than in the north, and in 1980 the military massacred more than 150 communist protesters and civilians in order to quell an uprising in Gwangju. From what I'd read, these Koreans didn't particularly like foreigners encroaching upon their soil, and it certainly showed on the faces. Eventually we found a small restaurant where we were able to get a vegetable and rice hotpot along with the usual assortment of side dishes, although the accompanying smiles from the two old ladies who made it for us weren't at all genuine.
Our plan for the Sunday was to spend the morning and afternoon in Duryunsan Provincial Park, just 15 minutes from Haenam. The bus station was interesting place in daylight, without a word of English and a vibe similar to small town bus stations in Eastern Europe
The walk up was pretty straightforward, if a little steep, and there was some colour left on the leaves. After about an hour we arrived a small temple with huge buddha carved into a rock, which commanded an amazing view out over Daedunsa and the valley. Quite a mouthful, it was known as Bukmireugammaaeyeoraejwasang, or 'North rock-cut seated Maitreya buddha of Daedunsa temple'. Could their possibly be a longer name in the language?
From here we continued on up, passing through a picturesque dry forest before attempting the scramble up the rocks to the peak. At one point the rocks only allowed one person at a time to climb, and we found ourselves having to wait for almost half an hour in the biting cold wind
We followed a different trail back to Daedunsa and were fortunate with connections, as we managed to jump on board strange bug shaped people carrier for a while before making it on to a bus back to Haenam. We then had only ten minutes to wait before our bus to Gwangju, which passed by some spectacular scenery including Wolchulsan National Park. By the time we arrived in Gwangju at 6pm things were looking good for us, and after dinner we figured we'd be home by 10pm.
This wasn't to be though, as our luck on the first part of the journey reversed. The next three buses to Suwon were fully booked, and we found ourselves having to wait more than an hour and a half for the next bus. Then, two hours into the journey at about 10.30pm we met bumper to bumper to traffic with people making their way back to Seoul for the week's work. From here we crawled, never getting out of second gear, and not reaching Suwon until nearly 2am. It was very frustrating, but taught us a valuable lesson, which was never to get a bus on a Sunday night and always try to book ahead!
It was a fast paced day and a half, but we were both glad we put in the effort to get out of Gyeonggi province. Jeollanam was a lot more rural and picturesque, and the views were very rewarding. However, with christmas around the corner and a trip home to save for we knew it would probably be our last overnight trip for the year.