The end of September marked one of Korea’s most popular holidays—Chuseok. This is basically Korean Thanksgiving, falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar, and lasts 3-5 days. Alex and I (mostly me!) really wanted to get out of Seoul since we have done a lot of exploring within the city, but not much outside of it. I wanted to see some emptiness! Although we didn’t get any Alaskan-style wilderness, we did find ourselves in some pretty “small” towns and on some fairly empty roads.
We still want to make our way down to Busan, but the last time we tried that was also on a holiday (Buddha’s Birthday), and we could not find decently priced hotels or train tickets that didn’t leave at 5am and return at 4pm. Alex, being on a more strict schedule than I, didn’t want to stay longer than a day or two. And with the likelihood of finding a sitter for Nabi at such late notice very slim (we really decided about a week in advance), we decided to find somewhere to go for just the day.
There’s a really nifty app called AskAjumma (no, no perks for me for giving a shout-out L) that is basically a concierge service and can help you find or do pretty much anything in Korea, including booking trips. As it was late notice, I didn’t think they’d be able to help us out, but I scrolled through their Facebook page and came across information for Samcheok. It’s a small town (75,000ish people…sooo… the size of Fairbanks’ borough) on the east coast of the country. According to Google Maps, it would take about 4 hours with public transportation, 3 if you drive yourself. So, it met all of our requirements (out of the Seoul and a day trip). Well… I Google imaged Samcheok, and one of the first results is of Haesindang Park, a nice nature park dedicated to a certain male…um… appendage.
So OF COURSE we had to check it out (feel free to scroll right to the pictures).
Once we got out of the Seoul limits (that alone took about 2 hours…think holiday traffic is bad where you live? HA), it was quite a nice and easy drive (oh, Alex decided to ship Felix, our giant car, from Alaska). I was a bit worried about finding a bathroom, as we figured with the traffic it would take us about 5 hours to get to the coast (no biggie, that’s like Fairbanks to…idk, Willow?), but Korea can do rest stops! Every 25-40 km or so, there’d be a giant rest area (more like what we call truck stops) with bathrooms (and lots of TP, yay!), food, and areas to run around and stretch.
After about 6 hours of driving (left around 7am), we finally made it to Haesindang Park. If you follow me on Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, sorry to disappoint but this post will be less crass and more informative (you can still giggle) than what I previously posted. I’m sure everyone who watched my Snaps was wondering WHAT IS THAT PLACE and/or WHY?!
According to the stories (we read a few different versions, and I’m sure some things may have gotten lost in translation), there was a young lady who one day lost her husband/lover to the sea (or maybe he took too long to come back?) and she got so upset she drowned (not sure if on purpose or didn’t leave as the tide came in…). Anyway, she died, and immediately after no one could catch any fish. Being a fishing village that’s a pretty big deal. One day a man was trying to catch some fish, and ended up taking a potty break, peeing in the sea. And then he caught a fish. The villagers connected the lack of fish to the young lady who died, and then male appendage to the reappearance of fish. So they carved large, totem-esque poles in order to appease her spirit and bring back all the fish. Now, there are over 100 all over this park (it was like a Where’s Waldo game) and they have a festival every year.
The park is actually really well done, and you can walk right down to the beautiful East Sea (def. not Sea of Japan to Koreans, duh). Once you get over what the poles are (depends on your maturity level), and pay attention to the details, you’ll see that each one is a work of art. I really have no idea how they came up with some of the ideas (nor do I want to know). Some are carved into wood, while others are made from stone. There’s also a giant one covered in gold, and one that moves like a cannon. Because why not?
After we had had our fill, we headed home. The ride home only took about 4 hours, and that was with a bathroom and corndog stop.