Saturday, December 28, 2013

South Korea: A Video

Here is a short video of some of our adventures in South Korea.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Seoul - part II

Before we left Seoul, we took the opportunity to join a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Our tour bus first stopped at the Monument to the Philippine Armed Forces, which honours the large contingent of Filipino forces who participated in the Korean War.

We then stopped at Unification Park where we were given time to visit more monuments to fallen soldiers, including ten South Korean suicide bombers referred to in inscriptions as brave 'human bombs'. The inscriptions also expressed the wish that the military spirit of the 'human bombs' live on in the South Korean people. As unification between North and South Korea is the stated purpose of the park, we weren't sure how helpful those sentiments were in forwarding that ideal. 

Closer to the border is Imjingak, the site of a park built to help console families who were split during the war. People gather here every New Year's Day to grieve for their friends and family on the other side and hope for eventual unification. We saw the Freedom Bridge and the Liberty Bell before being rushed back onto the bus by our tour guide.

The final stop was the one that everyone was waiting for - we drove towards the DMZ and then into the Joint Security Area (JSA) where South and North Korean forces are locked in a continual face off and where negotiations between the United Nations and North Korea took place until they broke off in 1991. On the way, the bus passed through a few military checkpoints and we began to see armed guards and barbed wire lining the road beside signage indicating live mine fields. We also passed a training ground with a model of the JSA buildings designed to help soldiers run realistic drills.

When we got to the JSA buildings, our tour guide left us in the care of an American soldier who would be our escort for the duration of the tour. We were given United Nations badges to wear and led inside a room where we signed away our rights and our expectation to life. We were then shown a slideshow on the history of the JSA and what we could expect to see when we got outside near the military personnel. Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised, but we couldn't help but note the bias apparent throughout the presentation. The closest South Korean village to the border is called "Freedom Village" while the North Korean village facing it is dubbed "Propaganda Village." The presentation also emphasized how hard the South Korean government had been working toward closer relations, while the communist regime in the North just keeps alienating itself.

After the briefing, we piled into a UN bus that took us to the actual line of demarcation between the two countries. The historical significance of the area, the tension emanating from the South Korean and American soldiers, and the big guns everywhere gave us an uneasy feeling. 

The South Korean soldiers assume a perpetual Taekwondo "ready" pose while they stare intently at the North side. 

The American soldier was busy barking orders and instilling fear in us. We had to walk in single file at all times and stay in a straight line, and refrain from waving or pointing. The instructions that we received before the tour had also directed us to wear long pants, no sunglasses or hats, and no sandals - presumably in case we had to run somewhere. The American's attitude towards us was so brash that it implied that any transgression on our part could set off another war, which made us wonder, why allow tourists in at all if relations are actually that touchy? As for the infamous North Korean soldiers, we only saw one, standing casually on the steps of his building and observing us through binoculars. Our American soldier brought our attention to mounted cameras that he said the North was using to monitor us.

We then entered the Military Armistice Commission building that straddles both sides of the border. We took pictures with an unsmiling South Korean soldier after we were warned not to touch him or move in front of him.

To round out the intense and intensely strange tourist experience on our way out of the JSA, our bus drove past the location of the 1976 axe murder of two American soldiers. Before this incident, both sides shared all of the JSA and worked among each other. But some discussion arose around a tree that was blocking the view of an American observation post. The Americans wanted to prune it and the North Koreans rejected this idea. The Americans then decided to chop down the entire tree as a show of force in a plan they called Operation Paul Bunyan. In response, North Korean soldiers took the the axes being used by the Americans and killed two of them.

After being dropped off back in Seoul, we left Yann and Emilie and headed to pick up James' camera lens, and then decided to try an Italian restaurant in Dongdaemun Market. We ordered baked spaghetti and garlic bread. The spaghetti was very good, but it seemed like our waiter had forgotten about the garlic bread. When we asked about it, he seemed surprised: "Oh really, you want the garlic bread right now?!"After we convinced him that indeed we did, he brought it...with a side of whipped cream. And sliced almonds on top. But it was also very garlicky and had parmesan cheese on top. 

Yet upon further investigation, it actually tasted quite sweet. We tried to ask the waiter if it was a dessert, but the language barrier was too great. He was only able to confirm that the whipped cream was indeed meant as a dip for the bread. It was one of the weirdest culinary experiences of our trip, but edible once we piled on the whipped cream and tried to think 'dessert.' 

Side note: one strange culinary experience that we were not able to taste as vegetarians was a hot dog deep fried inside of French fries, a popular street treat in the Dongdaemun market. But of course Yann, our intrepid culinary adventurer, tried it, and seemed to approve.

After our garlicky dessert, we did some shopping in the market before going back to the hostel, but while everyone was getting ready for bed, James decided to go back to the market to buy sunglasses. Since Antonia had no desire to go back out into the melee, he told her to go to bed and that he would be back soon. But she thought that she had better stay awake to make sure that he got home safely, and an hour and a half later, she was worried enough that she was about to wake Yann and Emilie and organize a search party. Luckily, James returned just before she did that and apologized for letting his inner bargain hunter run wild on the streets of Seoul in the wee hours.

We began our last day in Seoul with a walk through the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village, a 600-year-old neighbourhood around the palace complexes. Picturesque narrow alleys are lined with homes built in the traditional Korean style.

The area was designed to accommodate government officials and nobility during the Joseon dynasty. It would have provided them easy access to the royal court as it is located between the primary palaces, and according to traditional Korean architecture, rooms were placed in relation to the surrounding landscape with floors heated by a rock system (ondol) to battle the cold winters - an invention unique to Korea. 

From there, it was a short walk to Gyeongbokgung, Seoul's main palace complex, where we were just in time to see the changing of the guard. We gathered to watch at the gate that would have been the entry to the chamber where the king ruled the country. The ceremony has taken place since 1469, and the present-day interpretation is supposed to be very close to the original.

As everyone else had one last afternoon to spend at the math conference, Antonia parted ways with them and took the metro to the National Museum of Korea. She had a lovely afternoon exploring the modern, light-filled building filled with art and artefacts spanning all of human history on the Korean peninsula.

Among her favourites were two pots from the third century crafted to look like cartoonish ducks.

Antonia met up with everyone after the conference, and we ate at a Mr. Pizza in the COEX mall to celebrate our last night night in South Korea and what would be our last night together for a couple of weeks.

We then took the metro back to the e-Sports staduim where we had watched League of Legends because we had read online that there might be some breakdancing going on, but alas, we weren't able to find any. Luckily, though, the stadium happened to be right next to one of the most famous spas in Seoul. We had heard that a visit to a Korean spa was not to be missed, and especially that we should receive an exfoliating scrub, usually performed by elderly ladies who enthusiastically rub off a whole layer of skin. Despite this tempting opportunity, the boys chickened out and opted to go home and start packing, but Emilie and Antonia decided to be adventurous and complete the South Korean experience; and they were so glad that they did! The Dragonhill Spa is seven stories of pools, spa, amusement parks, and arcades. Emilie and Antonia opted to stay in the women's spa area, but there was plenty of fun to be had there. The spa room had dozens of different pools displaying their particular temperatures and medicinal properties. There was also a section for spa services, with a long list of possible treatments, including every type of massage and scrub.

The girls headed straight for the scrub that they had heard so much about. The area for spa treatments comprised a row of vinyl, cushioned beds with elderly ladies in matching underwear tending to the row of nude women on the beds. Emilie and Antonia took their places in the row, and proceeded to be vigorously scrubbed by sandpapery equipment that took off an amazing amount of skin. Since the scrubbing ladies didn't speak English, they would give a swift little swat on the bum to indicate that it was time to turn over. Then after a couple of rounds of scrubbing, without any warning, there was a sudden dousing of water. Next came a thorough washing with soap, making the girls extremely slippery on the vinyl beds, and afraid that they would fly off and land head first on the tiled floor. After more rinsing came the shampooing, and then after a few sharp shiatsu punches, they were refreshed and ready to go, feeling cleaner than they had ever been.

They then took the opportunity to try some of the different pools. They were convinced by an American mother and daughter, who seemed to be experts on the matter, to try the cold bath, which was 19 degrees Celsius. It was very painful to go in after walking around such a warm and steamy room, and it was even worse to press the button that prompted a strong waterfall of icy water to come rushing over their  heads. However, it was extremely refreshing and they felt great afterward. They then did a tour of the warm herbal pools and read the long lists of benefits touted for each one: anti-aging, blood pressure regulation, weight loss, digestion benefits, etc. They also lay on some warm jade slabs to incur some similar benefits, and ended the evening with another rude awakening in the cold bath - the perfect preparation for the Chinese leg of our journey, which would start early the next morning.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Seoul - part I

The ferry from Ulleungo to the Korean mainland was much larger than the one that had brought us out. We were very glad that there were windows this time, although, again, there was no possibility of going outside. Before we arrived in Asia, we had been very excited for the numerous ferries that we had been planning to take. The last couple of ferry rides, though, had been a bit rough and we arrived on the mainland very glad to be on firm ground and very nervous about the 18 hour ferry ride that we were planning to take to China in a few days. Daunted, we did some research later that night about flying instead, and we were surprised to find out that the price was the same. We decided to book the flight immediately, and since that would give us a few days of extra time, we made an exciting plan to add Hong Kong to our itinerary.

Once we arrived in Seoul, we took the metro to our hostel. Televisions on the metro featured very graphic videos about what to do in case of a disaster, and each metro station had a cabinet full of gas masks in case war flares up with North Korea.

Our hostel was in the middle of the busy Dongdaemun district, renowned for its enormous shopping malls and all-night street market. After settling into our room, we ventured out to find some dinner and explore the neighbourhood. There were so many people on the sidewalks that we had to push and squeeze just to stay together.

Each night the sidewalks were packed with hundreds of tents offering food and an enormous variety of merchandise, and even more packed with the hoards of people trying somehow to look at that merchandise while being shoveded along by the crowd pressed against them on every side, sardine-style. These tents get set up at 9 pm and pack up at 3 am.

We managed to find a lane of food stalls. James went for ramen while Antonia decided to be adventurous with a kind of potato pasta, but taking a risk doesn't always pay off, and Emilie had to pick out the fish for her. We spent the rest of the evening wandering around the market in awe, trying not to get separated.

The next day was the only opportunity for James, Yann, and Emilie to take in the sights of Seoul before they would be cooped up in a math conference all week. (Did we fail to mention that the main purpose of this trip was a math conference? We swear that this was really a work trip the whole time!) So we decided to take in some mandatory tourist sights and walked along a lovely man-made stream in the centre of the city to get to Changgyeong Palace and then Changdeok Palace, both remnants of the grand Joseon dynasty and built in the 15th century.

At Changdeok, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exemplary palace architecture and landscaping, we took a guided tour from a very animated tour guide.

The grounds included the living quarters of the royal family and their court, set amongst a large park featuring many pavilions overlooking several ponds. We were told that this had been the perfect setting for kingly contemplation and courtly love.

The gardens were lovely, but it was such a hot day that we were tempted to jump into the ponds.

We stopped for an ice cream to refresh ourselves before the long walk back along the urban stream. We appreciated this lovely little piece of nature inside such a hot and crowded city; it is a popular gathering spot for people to cool their feet or to watch a public performance.

For dinner, Yann and Emilie sought out some Korean barbeque and we found a restaurant serving shabu, which is Japanese-style hot pot - strangely, we had not had any when we were actually in Japan. The kind staff helped us to cook our veggies and then our noodles.

The food was served in that order and there was absolutely no mixing allowed! The fresh noodles were delicious.

After dinner, we wandered around the market and this time ventured inside the malls, which looked like North American malls from the outside but inside were as crammed and confusing as the streets outside, and these ones were open till 5 am. After a short time, Antonia was very ready to leave the craziness behind and head back to the hostel, but once we got back, James decided that he wanted to buy some glasses and headed out into the fray by himself. James is much better built for crowds and all night shopping than Antonia, and he was totally in his element in Dongdaemun.

The next morning, the three mathematicians woke up early to head to their conference at the gigantic Coex mall.The week-long conference featured daily keynote speakers and workshops on mathematics pedagogy.

There was also a hall with games and activities aimed at getting kids interested in math.

Meanwhile, Antonia took great pleasure in going back to sleep and having a leisurely morning to herself, and then spent the morning doing research about tours of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and planning our last minute trip to Hong Kong, and enjoyed walking around the market in the afternoon, when  most of the tents aren't yet set up and things are a little more laid back. Once the conference-goers returned, we all headed back to the market for dinner. James stuck with his very spicy ramen and Antonia went with her tried and true favourite, chive pancakes, and everyone toasted the evening with a beer. It was all delicious.

Since James was already feeling bored by our enormous market open only till 3 am, we decided to hop on a metro and search for Namdaemun market, which was supposed to be open 24 hours. We had difficulty finding the market, which was strange considering the size of the market and the crowds that it should attract, and then we realized that we were simply too early. You see, it was only a little after 10 pm, and it was hardly worth it for the stalls to be open yet. We hung around for awhile and finally saw some shops beginning to open, but it was obvious that the real action would be starting much too late for us. And, oh yeah, it was a Monday. So we headed back to our market, and while Yann and Emilie headed to bed, James hadn't yet had his shopping fix, and we braved the crowds once again.

A couple of days earlier, James had discovered that his brand new Nikon lens, bought just weeks ago in Tokyo, wasn't focusing properly. So he left a little early from the conference the next day so that we could track down Seoul's Nikon Service Centre. We set out into frenetic downtown Seoul armed only with vague directions from the internet about how to get there. Unfortunately, the street numbers didn't appear to be sequential and after wandering around the same few blocks for an hour and a half, we still couldn't find it to save our lives. Our frustration was compounded by the crazy traffic and lack of pedestrian infrastructure; there was often no visible way to cross a street for quite a long distance. Each time we would ask for directions, we got conflicting advice. And it didn't help that we had made a commitment to meet Yann and Emilie at a rapidly approaching hour (if you know Antonia and her extreme discomfort with being late, you can imagine her panic at this point). About to give up, we decided to ask a taxi driver, who was just as puzzled as we were, vindicating us in our confusion, but called the phone number of the office to get directions. He then tried to relay the directions to us in Korean. We gave him blank, defeated looks and asked him just to take us there. He tried to save us the cab fare and indicated that we were really oh so close, but we had no confidence that we would actually succeed on our own. We hopped in the cab and he drove us around the corner. It was a bit humiliating, but at least we had arrived! 

More frustration ensued at the Nikon store, although the staff was very sweet and helpful. They told us at first that the repair would take 7 days (which we didn't have) and cost money (even though we had an international warranty). After some discussion (aided by charades), we explained our situation, and James worked his famous charm. Soon we left with an agreement from Nikon to fix our lens in three days for free.

But we weren't able to relax yet; while waiting at the Nikon store, we had learned that the National Folk Museum, where we had planned to meet with Yann and Emilie, was closed that day, so they were waiting for us without even anything to entertain them while they did so. Already late, we hopped in a taxi to the Gyeongbok Palace complex, which houses the National Folk Museum, and we asked an employee at the main gate where to find the museum. He answered, "Sorry, the museum is closed today." We replied, "We know, but we just need to know where the entrance is." He answered, "I'm sorry, you'll have to come back tomorrow to visit." We went back and forth like this several more times during which Antonia's panic at being late for Yann and Emilie kept rising. Finally we got the information and we ran around the palace gates and spotted Yann and Emilie.

We decided to take advantage of being downtown, and we wandered down a large boulevard that joins the palace and city hall. The boulevard is dotted with enormous statues of Korea's most renowned kings and makes for quite an interesting aesthetic surrounded by skyscrapers in the foreground and mountains in the distance.

We ate dinner at a little noodle restaurant and then came across a delightful statue installation in a nearby park.

To prove that what you see is no trick of the camera, here are Yann and Emilie next to the cleverly-proportioned statues.

We then found our way to the Changdong Theatre and bought tickets for that night's performance of Miso, a musical performed in traditional Korean style. Miso tells the story of star-crossed lovers in a dramatic, operatic style (with English subtitles, luckily) and showcases many traditional Korean performing arts, including drumming, fan dancing, beona (wherein dancers spin plates balanced on top of long poles) and our favourite, pungmul (wherein dancers spin long ribbons fastened to their hats). It was better than we had expected, and by the end of the night, we were lining up for cheesy fan pictures with the cast.

Our last excursion of the evening was a trip to the top of Namsun Seoul Tower, built at the city's highest point. Emilie wanted to take a cab up the hill, but Yann wanted to walk. It turns out that the climb up Seoul's highest peak was quite steep (who would have thought?), and as it had started to rain quite heavily, we had to take many slippery stone stairs to reach our destination, giving us deja vu about the last time we were hiking up steep slopes in the rain in Korea. 

When we eventually reached the tower, we got into the elevator that would take us to the top. The guide motioned to the ceiling of the elevator where a television screen made it appear as though we were rising through the night sky, but then breaking through the atmosphere and catapulting through space. When we got to the highest floor, we were rewarded with a lovely nighttime view of the river and the city lights, but also screens in the floor that could tell when we were stepping on them, and made it look as though the floor beneath us was crumbling away and we were free-falling to the ground. 

Even though we now realized that the proper way to make this excursion would have been to taxi up and walk down, Yann let us take the cable car back down, and we headed home, stopping on the way for ice cream from the convenience store next door. Emilie and Antonia decided to try an interesting cream soda/oreo combo flavour, which turned out to be - you guessed it! - very strange.

The next day, Antonia decided to crash the math conference and join the mathematicians for the end-of-the-day snacks. Figuring that James was by now a familiar face at the conference, Antonia pinned his I.D. badge to her shirt, with the picture facing in, and desperately hoped that no one would try to strike up a math conversation with her. 

After enjoying some sandwiches and beer, we all headed to yet another enormous mall to find an e-Sport competition. These video games are extremely popular in South Korea and are huge spectator sports. We tried to find a Starcraft competition, since it is a game that we had heard of, but settled for a League of Legends game that was being played that night. 

There are star players, hardcore fans, and a big industry built around broadcasting the matches. We found a large room packed with Koreans (we were the only tourists) - 95% male and 100% enthralled in the proceedings. Since it is a group "sport," each team was arranged on either side of the room in small glass rooms, with commentators situated under a jumbo-tron that displayed the game, as well pre- and post-game player interviews. 

The matches were being broadcast and the players were always swarmed by cameras and lit up by spotlights. We found seats and settled in to watch the lead-in to the next match; each player was introduced at length, followed by an analysis of his record and speculation about the coming match

A Korean team was about to take on a team made up of Americans, Britons, and Venezuelans. We matched the match but had no clue what was going on; it was funny to hear the whole crowd ooh and aah together at apparently critical points in the match, but which were imperceptible to us. We would just turn to each other and shrug in ignorance. 

One thing was clear: the Korean team destroyed the visiting team. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


We arrived at the island of Ulleungdo, 120 km off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, after a three and a half hour hydrofoil ferry ride. Unfortunately, unlike our last ferry, this ferry had no outdoor deck on which to stand and be blown about. In fact, there were not even any windows, so the ride was akin to sitting in a large waiting room while feeling a bit sea sick.

We had read that Ulleungdo was famous for two things: squid and pumpkin taffy. In fact, the entire island is decorated with cartoon pumpkin and squid mascots. Since the squid didn't interest us, we decided to buy some taffy as soon as we docked in the town of Dodong-ri, and it did not disappoint -  it was delicious. When we left the island a few days later, we were armed with bags of the stuff. As for the squid, we saw divers fishing for them off the coast, and every market and restaurant had live ones on display. They are actually pretty cute.

Although we usually don't reserve a room until we arrive at our destination, Ulleungdo is a popular summer vacation spot in South Korea, and we wanted to make sure that we wouldn't be stranded on the island without lodging when we arrived. So months before we left on our trip, Emilie had reserved what looked like the best deal on the island. We hired a taxi from the dock to take us to the nearby town of Jeodong-ri and our ominously-named hostel, Attack Camp. After wandering around for awhile in search of it, we finally found it, only to have the owner inform us that it was full. We replied that we had made a reservation months ago from Canada, and that we had even received a confirmation email just the day before. After much discussion, he realized that there had been a mix-up between himself and his daughter, who handles the internet reservations, and she called to apologize to us and offer a private mountain cabin for the night at no extra charge. Figuring we had hit the jackpot, we happily agreed and quickly headed to pick up some groceries before being driven up to the remote chalet to spend the night. The cabin was lovely, with several rooms and a kitchen, and we proceeded to have a very relaxing evening. The only down side was a few centipedes that we saw in the living room, but Emilie swiftly killed them, and we figured we were safe to head to bed. Moments later, we were awoken by the sound of Yann and Emilie swatting centipedes, first a few here and there, and then with an increasing urgency as they kept creeping out of the walls like in a nightmare. They had to change rooms to escape them. Luckily, we got away without any in our room, or at least any that we noticed, which sometimes has to be good enough. 

The following morning, we were awoken abruptly by an insistent knocking and a man pleading with us to open the door. It was our driver, who wanted to drive us back to Jeodong-ri immediately. So we rushed to get ready and decided that we would eat the breakfast that we had bought the night before once we were at Attack Camp, which should now have had our room ready. When we arrived at the hostel, we were very hungry and we decided to sit down at the communal dining table to eat. But as soon as we had done that, the owner entered to announce that he would be eating his breakfast before we could, so we would have to wait in our room until he was done. He led us to two separate rooms, one for the boys and one for the girls, that we would have to share with strangers. However, we had reserved a private room for all four of us. Apparently that was not available. While we sulked in our room waiting for the owner to allow us to eat our breakfast, we started to wonder if there was a better deal out there. James and Yann were appointed to go try to find another hostel, and after awhile they returned to report to the still-sequestered girls that sure enough, there were nice motels available at the same low price. We scurried out of Attack Camp without saying a word to the owner, and into a motel where we had two separate, private rooms with private bathrooms, air conditioning, TV and internet. We learned again that it never pays to book ahead of time. Finally we ate our breakfast and we were ready for our first full day on the island.

Our first adventure was an hour-long walk along the beautiful sea wall back to the town of Dodong-ri. The walking trail is built along the cliffs of the island and offers great views of the sea crashing against the rocks and the gorgeous turquoise water stretching across the Sea of Japan as far as the eye can see. 

From Dodong-ri, we took a taxi to the town of Sadong, where we planned to take a sight-seeing boat trip around the island. The first leg of the boat trip was very rocky and made all of us sea sick until we realized that it was better to be on top of the boat on the deck, in the fresh air. 

Poor Emilie was especially affected by the waves and stayed below to nap; she ended up sleeping away most of the ride. On the deck, we immediately noticed a large flock of seagulls that had followed the boat from shore and were flying right along with it. It was clear that they were familiar with this particular boat, and they tagged along for the entire ride around the island for the free snacks - people would buy chips on board to feed the seagulls, who would snatch them right out of their outstretched hands. 

The views of the island from the boat were beautiful. We gazed at the tall cliffs of the island and the interesting rock formations that jutted out of the sea.

When we had completed the circumference of the island after an hour and a half, the boat docked and we looked for a taxi at the terminal, but didn't see one immediately. We did spot a tour bus full of older Korean ladies, and Emilie decided to ask if they could take us back to Dodong-ri. Initially the driver turned us down, but some of the ladies must have convinced him otherwise, because we heard honking as we were walking away and when we turned around, he was waving us back. They made room for us where they could, but there weren't quite enough seats, so Emilie and Antonia had to sit on the console between the front seats, facing everyone else.

That afforded quite an amusing view once the driver popped in a cassette and suddenly the bus was full of ladies with perms and sun visors (the uniform of  most elderly Korean women) clapping, singing, and whooping along.

The oldest of the ladies directed everyone else by swinging a water bottle wildly from side to side. When the bus arrived in Dodong-ri, we were bid farewell by these very cute ladies and we set back towards Jeodong-ri along the beautiful sea wall. This time we took a slight detour to climb up a hilly, jungly trail to a lighthouse that provided excellent views of the sea.

Back in Jeodong-ri, we discovered an inexpensive and delicious pizza place that we would become very familiar with over the next few days.

The next morning, Yann and Emilie left early to start a hike to the summit of the island; we had chosen instead to see a few other sights. We started by taking a taxi to the Mineral Spring Park in Dodong-ri where we boarded a cable car that took us on a steep ascent over forested mountains. 

At the top, we followed a trail to a very high observation deck over the town of Dodong-ri, and then we followed another steep trail down into a valley and then up another peak for views over the sea.

After taking the cable car back down, we found the mineral spring that gives the park its name. This spring is reputed to have special healing powers, and so we decided to ignore our usual tourist safety protocol and try a sip. It tasted like a very mineral-y lemon-lime soda, complete with carbonation. We are proud that we were brave enough to drink out of this:

After a quick lunch of ramen from a convenience store, we hopped in another taxi to a large park closer to Jeodong-ri that boasts a famous waterfall. As we walked through the park toward the waterfall, we came acorss the Natural Air Conditioner Cave, which naturally remains at 4 degrees celsuis year-round. We stopped in to cool down and marvel at the geothermal phenomenon. 

Antonia is very cold.
We continued walking on the very pretty trail to the waterfall, and rested there to admire it for awhile.

We walked back to town and met Yann and Emilie at the motel. We were all tired from our day, but since rain was forecast for the next day, we decided to make the trip to Sunset Point Pavilion, lauded in our guidebook as the best place to see the sunset over the ocean. We boarded a bus to the town of Namyang and then wandered around until a local man pointed us toward an unmarked set of stairs that were almost completely grown over with brush. It became clear that the pavilion wasn't such a big draw anymore as we climbed the steep path, often having to forge our way through tall plants that had taken it over. We finally arrived at the pavilion, which indeed had a lovely view of the ocean and rocky cliffs, and, of course, we had it all to ourselves. But the sky was very hazy, and it seems that we hadn't timed things quite right, because the hazy sun was still very high in the sky.

We waited long enough to spot a rat in the grass next to us, and to be overrun with ants, and then we realized that we didn't particularly want to be going back down the overgrown path after the sun had set. So we hurried back down wielding long bamboo sticks to ferret out any rats or snakes on our path, since by then we were convinced that there was way too much untouched nature around us and it would be difficult for anyone to help us on this remote and abandoned trail. But we made it safely out of the bush and hopped on a bus back to Jeodong-ri.

For dinner, we hit up Pizza Jung for the second time. We were greeted again by the young man who seemed to be the pizza chef, waiter and delivery boy all in one, and who had been very welcoming to us the previous evening. James decided that we should splurge on the 'cheesy bite' crust this time. After we ordered, the chef/waiter used a translation app that read out in a robotic voice, "I will do cheesy bites as my service." It took us a very long time to decipher that he wanted to give us the cheesy bite crust for free. It was so sweet.

After our meal, we each used our translation apps back and forth to say, "Did you like the meal?" and "It was delicious." Everyone was delighted. Here is our super cute pizza boy:

The next day, the couples split up again because Yann and Emilie decided to take the cable car that we had taken the previous day, and we wanted to try the monorail along the north coast of the island. We took a bus to Taeha-ri and found the monorail, but unfortunately it was closed due to high winds. It was a bit stormy that day; in fact, ferries to and from the island were cancelled. We later learned that the cable car was also closed, so Yann and Emilie were out of luck, too. We crossed our fingers that the ferry would be running the next day so that we would be able to start our journey to Seoul.

Instead of taking the monorail, we walked along a sea wall and took in the stormy and tumultuous seas. 

We decided to follow some Korean tourists inland on what appeared to be a fairly unused path through the woods. The path quickly became difficult to navigate and soon our leaders decided to turn back. We decided to venture on and the path led to a pretty valley of flowers. Once out of the woods and on our walk back into town, we had to run from large waves that came crashing onto our platform.

Back in Jeodong-ri, we peeked into a cafe that we had been wondering about since we arrived, because it was reserved specifically for playing the ancient Chinese game of go. Unfortunately, no one was playing at the time - it must be cooler to play the board game at all hours of the night.

Finally, we stopped at a bakery to pick up a goodbye gift for our pizza boy, and ordered one last pizza to go, which we ate in our hotel room as we packed to leave for Seoul the next day. The last thing we did before boarding the ferry in the morning was to buy a snack from this kind baker on the docks of Jeodong-ri.