Monday, January 31, 2011

Post-Christmas Awe (26 December)

Considering what a late night we had had the last two nights – especially after an extremely eventful Christmas Day – I’m surprised to find that I’m not too tired when I wake up the next morning, dress and head down to breakfast.  Catfish has already been to breakfast and goes for a walk on the beach so I head down to a very quiet restaurant where KiwiKat and NZ2 are on breakfast duty.  The Kiwi breakfast looks good and it’s really entertaining when Seokjin comes along with his chopsticks to eat fried eggs.  With breakfast out of the way, we’re herded onto the bus and soon on our way to our first sight for today, Jeju Circus World, where we’ll watch a Chinese Acrobatics’ and Motorbike Show.  I can’t say I’m terribly enthusiastic about this particular activity but I’m blown away by the incredible performances that all end too soon.

Chinese Acrobatics and Motorbike Show

From the dancing girls with their spools and ropes to the acrobatic couples on the hoop suspended from the ceiling, and the tumbling acts, the performances seem to just keep getting better and better. By the time the three contortionists re-appear with several candlebras that they proceed to balance in various awkward positions while moving each other, we’re sitting on the edge of our seats.  The next act with the spinning fans is equally impressive and we’re all marvelling at the flexibility and dexterity of the performers when the next act starts. 

It involves two adult males and two kids (the girl is apparently 15 years old as we later discover).  It’s a tumbling act and the two men tumble and juggle these kids with their feet.  The strength required to do this is unthinkable and it really is an impressive act.  When both kids are juggled until they’re balancing on the legs of just one of the two guys where they all strike a pose, I can’t help but utter a semi-sarcastic, “What? No juggling!” much to the amusement of those around me.  The big finale is the motorbike part.  The act starts with a single biker who zooms around inside of an enormous sphere. Slowly, more and more bikers are added until there are a total of seven in a sphere that seems to have suddenly decreased considerably in size.

Green Tea Not Green Leaves...

Our next stop on the itinerary is O’Sulloc Green Tea Farm. As we arrive at the farm, it starts snowing rather heavily creating the impression that we’re part of a giant snow globe that’s just been shaken up.  Since it’s so cold, it’s probably the only time I’m ever going to see 30 plus 20-somethings, who genuinely like to party, head straight for the museum!  The rows of tea look beautiful in the snow and a group of us head up the road to take photos of “THE tree”.  I’m still not really sure why this particular tree is so important but it’s a beautiful sight nonetheless and we have a lot of fun taking lots of silly photos.  At this point in the trip, all of our cameras seem to be common property with several people happily snapping random photos on different cameras.  By the time we’ve finished taking photos and we head back down the road to the museum to have a quick look around and hopefully find a hot drink.  On the way, however, we’re easily distracted by the red berries on a tree and stop to take a slew of posed photos before finally heading indoors. 

Apart from seeing some of what looks like my art work on display, the museum doesn’t take very long.  Catfish and I need little encouragement to head back outdoors where it is once again snowing beautifully.  We spot some reeds in the garden which prompts another short photo shoot with some fantastic results.  We then spot the snow that has built up along the path – enough to start an impromptu snowball fight with each other.  Two Korean kids nearby see us throwing snow at each other and decide that it’s okay to join in which leads to Catfish and I chasing them around the garden in an attempt to throw snowballs at them.  The kids squeal in delight as they fly over the snowy grass – that we later realise is actually a roped off section on which we’re not meant to walk but it’s great entertainment at the time.

After all the snowball fights, we’re starving so we’re happy to arrive at the Greek-decorated Korean restaurant where we have a delicious buffet lunch.  Lunch is gulped down rather quickly and Catfish, NZ2 and I are soon back outside and rubbing the nose of the hallabong at NZ2’s instigation.  Koreans believe that rubbing its nose will make you have a boy baby.  We then take a short walk past mini-land where there is a miniature Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty among other things.  We also pass this rather self-satisfying (or self-gratifying) lamp!

Gone With the Wind on Songak

Since Mt HallaSan is closed due to the heavy snow, Seokjin decides we should go to Songak Mountain where we can see Cow Island and more beautiful scenery.  Like most Korean parks, this one has an outdoor gym – a concept which I particularly like since the equipment is all equivalent to actual gym equipment without the cost and guilt associated with a gym membership that only gets used twice a year.  This particular climb is fairly easy but the wind makes me feel like I’ve entered the moors in Wuthering Heights or some other Jane Austen novel and the people with whom I’m walking turn back fairly soon under the mistaken understanding that we need to be back on the bus earlier than anticipated – spot the English teachers who don’t listen to instructions!

Raise Your Hand if You're an English Teacher Who Can't Read

From there, we head to Hallim Botanical Garden where, once again, my friends and I apparently don’t understand clear English instructions (or signs) so we start the tour path from the exit and spend a frustrating 30 minutes trying to figure out why we have to keep climbing over fences and through bushes in order to get to the path that leads to the lava tube caves.  Feeling adventurous, Catfish pauses long enough to purchases Cactus juice which is reminiscent of cough syrup and tastes far worse. 

Along the way, however, we witness an entertaining Iguana fight.  This particular iguana was just ‘chilling’ on the branch and his amusing expression was what made us stop and take photos of him.  Not to be out-photographed, the biggest iguana of all pushes his way across the branch, over the other two (notice how the smallest iguana is hanging from the side for dear life) and proceeds to initiate a fight with the first iguana by biting his tail.  This fight continues for nearly 15 minutes and is well-documented by us.  The end result: Big iguana is thoroughly peeved and the original iguana gets the prized spot once more.  We then meet up with Seokjin who asks us if we want to see the caves that we’ve actually been searching for for the past 30 minutes.

The caves are an interesting experience with several key points.  There is a living rock in the first cave and Seokjin explains this to me – since I don’t realise that there are actually signs that explain key points to idiots like us.  The living rock is a piece of rock that fell from the ceiling of the cave but continues to ‘grow’ in size due to the chemical compounds within the rock.  Consequently, it is now considerably larger than the original hole in the ceiling.  Next is the Ssanyong Cave where there are two dragon caves – that is, the shape of the caves resembles that of a dragon.  At the end of the cave, just as one would expect to find, is a “Merry Christmas” light display.

Unfortunately, time in the caves is short and we’re soon hurrying through the caves in order to do some quick memorabilia shopping before Seokjin once again rounds us up and shepherds us halfway across the botanical gardens to where the bus is waiting to leave for the airport to drop off half of our tour group who only had the weekend free.  NZ2 is among those leaving while Catfish, KiwiKat and I still have a third day of exciting – and, let’s be honest, exhausting – activities to look forward to.  But first, dinner is a priority….

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