On Saturday I went in the opposite direction of last weekend, and took a day trip east to Yeongwol County. Yeongwol County is part of Gangwon Province. It is known for being the place where King Danjong, the sixth king of the Joseon Dynasty, was exiled to when he was forced to abdicate by his uncle who became Sejo of Joseon.
Other than the history of the place, it is well known for sightseeing and touristy activities. There are many things to do, mostly outdoor, and two rivers snake their way through several towns and make for a very stunning landscape. So this is the rural part of Korea, and it’s a drastic departure from the megapolis that’s found elsewhere.
It’s important to note that when you look at a density map of Korea, there isn’t a lot of space taken up by people in proportion to the size of the country. A lot of this has to do with the verticality of everything, but it definitely seems that they make a concerted effort to preserve landscape around here.
It took a little over 3 hours to get here and it’s 160km away. It takes 3 hours because there isn’t a single speed limit over 100km/h, which is the equivalent of 60mph. And that…. that really sucks.
Now this is a bridge being built for the high speed rail connection to the east coast of Korea. They plan on having this done within the next year or so, with time to spare before the Olympics. The scale of the project is just absolutely staggering- our route more or less followed the high speed rail construction, and it looks like they are constructing all the columns and piles first, and then prefabricating all of the rails offsite and bringing it piece by piece. What makes this project so immense is the fact that the entire project is elevated. There are few areas where the rails are actually on the ground. The reason for this is a high speed train going 300km/h cannot be going up and down, up and down as it travels through the mountains. It’s almost as if the designer drew a straight line between the stations, picked an elevation, and they’re building it. Honestly, if you’re in Korea GO OUT and LOOK at the construction they are doing. It’s amazing.
This bridge in particular uses a hybrid concrete/steel truss system. You won’t see that in the states.
What else is cool is the entire thing is being built at the same time – Every column is being built simultaneously. We drove by a billion of them, but it was too dark at the time to see.
One of the reasons why the freeways are slow is construction vehicles.
The first place we stopped was one of the river bends. There’s a water feature park next to it, along with bike and walking trails. The river bend has a ferry that you can get on to cross the river to the other side, where there’s a park you can walk through and look at some rocks and stuff. We didn’t go on the ferry because the line was so long. Plus, places to be, places to see. There was this building that accompanied the ferry, but we went inside and there was practically nothing in there. But there were a ton of people who were stopping at this place. Perhaps there’s some significance of it, but my ignorance of Korean wasn’t helping here as there were no signs in English.
Moving on from here, we more or less stayed on rural roads and didn’t venture more than say, 25km from here. Our return trip ended up being pretty gnarly and taking almost 4 hours, but that’s because we were reeeeally rural and not close to any freeway. Anyway I digress, I’ll cover that later.
Also- cell towers are everywhere. Even in the middle of nowhere. Seriously.
Next we followed this rural road until in turned into rural farm road, so we hopped up onto a levy and drove along the levy until we literally couldn’t go any further, at which point we got out and footed it until we couldn’t go any further. Spectacular riverbank, seriously. Also the farming is awesome to look at, and they seem to have greenhouses everywhere!
Next stop was our original intended destination, a rafting spot. No intentions to raft, we just wanted to get a brochure on the topic. Apparently there are some rapids? Didn’t see much “rapids” but that’s also because the water is really low. I’m sure there’s more when the water rises during the monsoon season. Greeeeat I can’t wait for it to rain 18 inches in July 😦
From here we found this “art gallery” that was next to this farm. It’s this outdoor sculpture garden with an indoor space filled with…weird stuff. We didn’t go inside. We did snap some pictures of the garden, and got to meet the artist responsible for all of this. Now here’s the kicker- this dude is French and ONLY speaks french! We thought “oh cool! A white dude, let’s talk to him!” WRONG! Total 180 degree flip. Oh well. So once we started harassing the poor guy this korean girl comes running from the ticket booth (literally running) and made us leave him alone. Then she wanted 10 bucks for us to go inside the gallery, so we left.
That dude totally looks like a hermit. What are the chances that some random french dude is in literally, the exact center of Korea next to some farm? LOL each day gets more exciting.
So what else can you do in the middle of I guess can be compared to a nature preserve? Go to an observatory!
We took this road that was “designed” to be a two way road, but for all intents and purposes it’s a single one way street. Every time a car comes the opposite direction, you have to cram yourself over as far as you can and you inch by each other. It’s absolutely wild. I don’t want to do that drive…. Luckily I wasn’t driving.
The observatory didn’t have an exhibition hall or anything, and they do this show there. All the tickets were sold out so we didn’t get to go inside. We did get to hang out outside and it was really cool, albiet sort of… “on the edge.” The air sucked and a storm started to roll in so I couldn’t catch any good photos. What happens is winds come from the west heading east, and they carry dust from the Gobi Desert so everything becomes this white haze. You get the dust everywhere. So every time a storm comes along it’s preceded by the dust. We also get Yellow Dust which is a bunch of **** from China that sits and hovers over Korea. Our air quality sucks because of it, and I’m not a happy camper because of it. I have had 3 blue sky days since getting here. I hate haze.
From here we precariously made our way down the mountain and tried to find this other river that had “rapids” but in all actuality we ended up getting lost in the countryside. Not so much lost because we had the GPS lady yelling at us the whole time, but our excursion into the backwoods ended up adding an hour to our return time because we had to follow a seasonal road along a river for about 40km. A road that’s underwater for 5 months every year. Yaaaayyyy. Anyway when we left the observatory we would our way through a few towns that became more and more agrarian, went through a mountain pass and ended up along a river. The road we were on dead ended and we had to back track.
From here we had to turn around because the road ended, so we went back, turned at the fork, and continued on a rapidly deteriorating road that we followed all the way back to the freeway. We were on that road for the rest of daylight.
We were on that road until the Freeway like I said before, and that took us a good two hours. We were on the road well past nightfall, but not before I could get in one last shot. We took a toll road for most of the rest of the trip and it cost us 7 bucks for about 120km. Worth it.
Korea is a beautiful place and you can spend years exploring and still not see it all. And with that, I leave you with my last shot of the day.