A hike in Sobaksan National Park and in Danyang’s Garlic Market

Monday, May 6
On Monday morning, we changed yogwans to the Sketch Motel. We had decided to avoid it originally because of its patent-leather appearance and apparently disturbing decoration style, but we needed the bathtub and internet.
We explained to the Destination of Coffee people, who told us apologetically that they really could not deal with the internet situation, since they were headed to Seoul for a Buddhist ceremony for a recent death of his mother in law. Soon the place was deserted and the shop locked up tight. Before this, however, they brought us hot water, coffee, six pieces of toast, jam, cute little pumpkin jelly things, and an orange with a knife to peel it with. It was pretty fun to have continental breakfast delivered, and we were ready to forgive them for the bathtub. But the internet was important. So, I bravely ventured next door to the Sketch and got a room there, in a room with rather alarming decorations, and English language phrases on the walls that were both puzzling and hilarious.

English language nonsense – a dying art form in Korea
It used to be that one could see lots of English language nonsense on signage and t-shirts in Seoul, but alas, Korea is becoming so English-savvy that ridiculous verbiage is becoming a thing of the past. I wish I would have stocked up on t-shirts while I had the chance. Nonetheless, that tradition is still alive at the Sketch, where words like “Angel,” and “Love” are written sideways into the designs. Our room was labeled as a “Sketch Primium” room outside the door. My favorite graphic design was a phrase written into the wallpaper on our floor which declared “Exploding Cigar We Willingly.” We have a shot of that. These things, and all such pop art in Korea must be documented. After all, pretty soon all the love motels will have correct English on the walls – and ultimately, maybe Korean again.

A feast for the eyes at a marketplace
That day, we explored the Danyang riverfront and marketplace.

The Nam Hangang as it winds its way through Danyang.  Photo by Steebu

The Nam Hangang as it winds its way through Danyang. Photo by Steebu


Pagoda overlooking the river in Danyang.  Photo by Steebu

Pagoda overlooking the river in Danyang. Photo by Steebu

We saw the tiny landing pad where the hang gliders come down, and walked on a riverfront boardwalk that overlooked the wide, shallow river with mountains rising up on the opposite side. We also explored the covered marketplace that went on for blocks and included some of the “mountain vegetables” that feature prominently in the local cuisine. Green was everywhere, from the freshly picked things ready to pop into bibimbap, to flats of vegetable plants ready for home gardens.
Ginseng being kept hydrated at the Danyang garlic market.  Photo by Steebu

Ginseng being kept hydrated at the Danyang garlic market. Photo by Steebu

Among the green new vegetables, I recognized the “kosari” or fiddlehead ferns but not much else. There was also tons of garlic and ginseng of all sizes, and lots of seafood available.
Various jangs at the Danyang garlic market.  Photo by Steebu

Various jangs at the Danyang garlic market. Photo by Steebu

Even the lamp poles exude garlic in Danyang.  Photo by Steebu

Even the lamp poles exude garlic in Danyang. Photo by Steebu

poongmul is everywhere...  Photo by Steebu

poongmul is everywhere… Photo by Steebu

Sobaksan hiking
Next, we made our way to Sobaksan National Park, via the Darian Resort which includes a bus stop, stores, and a huge high rise youth hostel. It was so enjoyable to hike (a moderate amount) next to the rushing river tumbling down from the mountains, listening to birds we never heard before.

Entrance to one of the main trails in Sobaeksan, near Danyang.  Photo by Steebu

Entrance to one of the main trails in Sobaeksan, near Danyang. Photo by Steebu

The terrain is rugged, with huge boulders forming a path for the river to rush down. The layers of rock are stuck sideways into the side of the mountain, and they jut out here and there. We walked up to the first ranger station, rested there, and went a little ways up the mountain from there. After walking a hundred flights of stairs the day before, my legs just were not up to the task.
We had to put our feet in the water on the way back, and it was so icy that it numbed my feet about five seconds. The place, with high rock walls and a canopy of green, had its own ecosystem and its own spell. The sound was a big part of it. All the white noise caused by the rushing water had a hypnotic effect. I felt like if I stayed any longer, I wouldn’t ever be able to leave. So, I think we left in the knick of time, shaking off the magic, and proceeding down the mountain, ending up at a restaurant across from the bus stop.
Rustic boonshik at the entrance to the Sobaeksan trail.  Photo by Steebu

Rustic boonshik at the entrance to the Sobaeksan trail. Photo by Steebu


While we ate our bibimbap and tofu and kimchi in a rustic, open-air dining room, a contingent of elders started up singing folk songs at a picnic outside. Whoa, it was like a Korean movie set! The group sent one of the elders back in a few times with their empty beat-up kettle for makkoli. (The beat-up kettles seemed to be the main decoration item of the restaurant). This lady, one of the younger elders, was sent in a couple different times with the kettle, looking more sheepish with every trip, as the volume of singing got louder. Eventually, the elders trotted off to their bus, probably to serenade their driver on the way back home. All quiet, and the bus came on time to pick us up, as well as two other people.
We certainly did not have to deal with any crowds of tourists on our trip to Danyang. Despite its many attractions, we seem to have had the place pretty much to ourselves. After visiting so many places with mobs of tourists in the past, particularly in Korea, it was nice to be in the countryside, and have empty space around us, as well as beauty.
Back at the Sketch, we sat down at our his and hers computers. I bought a bottle of soju for about $1.50, and with some orange juice, we were set for a limited amount of catching up on email and news back home.
Marth in her Sketch bathrobe...  Photo by Steebu (natch)

Marth in her Sketch bathrobe… Photo by Steebu (natch)

You never have to worry about the sun waking you up at the Sketch because the windows are blacked out. As with most “love motels,” if you are driving, you can park in the secret underground parking lot underneath the building. It all made us feel like we were really getting away with something.

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About Martha Vickery

Editor of Korean Quarterly newspaper
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3 Responses to A hike in Sobaksan National Park and in Danyang’s Garlic Market

  1. Shirley Sailors says:

    Being legally married (to each other), are you eligible to stay at a love motel? It seems as if you were the rule-breakers! Scandal. . . !

    • Of note, the first respectable place we stayed in was in Boseong (still to come as of today) which had condos, a business office, and a small yogwan in the same building. Totally different feel to the place! And customers have to park out front, right on the main street.

  2. Karen Befi says:

    Like Shirley’s note above!! Great entertaining “travel section” article by you guys. Great to see you guys having holiday for once… At least partially??? Be safe my friends and family! K

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