Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lunar New Year ( 설날 ) [Gyeongju & Wonju]

( 1400 year old brick pagoda at Bunhwang-sa in Gyeongju)

Gyeongju ( 경주 )

Alright, this will be my last post about our silly road trip. For our final day, we decided that we'd do something cultural for a change. We hopped a subway in the morning to head out to the Express Bus Terminal to pick up the car. Erik, again, jumped in the driver's seat and set sail for Gyeongju. As was pretty standard for the trip, I was granted shotgun for my navigation skills. It wasn't that I was better at navigating, so much as I was better at navigating the navigation system that was only in Korean. This trip was the shortest of all of the other drives; we arrived in about an hour and a half.

Let me tell you, the area that we were visiting was like a ghost town. I think we saw a total of 6 people wandering around this area of Gyeongju. We were destined for Bunhwang-sa (분황사), which has a large brick pagoda built in the 7th century. Before we could partake in any cultural activities, we required food, so we dredged deeper into the emptiness of this town. We ended up settling on a pizza place, called Pizza Bingo. It wasn't too bad at all. Erik & I shared a pepperoni pizza. With our tums full, we headed over to Bunhwang-sa to take it all in. Admission was very cheap, like most Korean attractions, and we got to see some pretty cool old stuff. It's a special feeling to stand in front of a structure that was built 1400 years ago. Tucked away in the back corner of the courtyard was a big pile of stones to stack, so naturally, I stacked to my hearts content and snapped a photo. There was also a small shrine room that had some in tact paintings along the outer wall that were put there in the 5th century. So cool.

( Erik, Justin & Calvin meandering the vacant streets of Gyeongju )

( Calvin, still struggling to read his book, due to Jungle Love )

( Justin & a large temple bell )

( inside the shrine room )

( Buddha )

( my stone stack )

Wonju ( 원주 )

After our short-lived exploration of Gyeongju, I finally got behind the wheel. I took me a good twenty minutes to get comfortable, seeing as though I hadn't driven in a good seven months. My time had come.  We got settled in and decided on an excursion to Wonju. None of us had ever heard of it, and the Lonely Planet guide said, "Wonju is home to several universities and military bases, so it has lots of young people hanging around and a rather chaotic intercity bus terminal. If you must spend the night, avoid the dingy area around the latter..." We decided that this seemed like the place to be; it also didn't hurt that it was only a mere one hour drive from Suwon. Seeing as though we needed to have the car back by five the next day, we figured we'd play it safe.

Driving in Korea really isn't that different from driving in the States, but one thing that I really enjoyed is the lack of police traffic on the freeways. Instead of officers patrolling, they have speed camera every 10 kilometers. This seems like it might be worse, but the GPS in the car warns you a kilometer in advance that one is coming. Since the car was such a smooth ride, I found it hard to keep the car under 130 km/h. This posed a problem, since the speed limit was 100. With the GPS warnings, this really wasn't a problem at all. I would slow down when told to, and as soon as I would pass the camera, the GPS would make a ding-dong sound like a video game telling me that I had passed a check point. It was almost like a pat on the back telling me to floor it. Damn, I miss driving. It makes me want to buy a car. Anyways, we switched drivers with about 45 minutes left to drive, so that Calvin could have a go behind the wheel. He safely ported us at a love motel nearby the intercity bus terminal in Wonju we were supposed to avoid. We unloaded our stuff and set out on a journey of debauchery. Wonju was one of those night I'll never forget. It was complete and udder ridiculousness.

The first thing we did was find food. We stopped into a HOF and indulged in chicken and beer. We also figured that this was the last night of our Korean road trip, so it was a necessity to down at least one bottle of soju. After eating, the waitress was kind enough to walk us to a nearby western bar called Wa Bar. We actually have these around Suwon and Seoul, so it was no surprise to find a standard Western Ice Bar. We had a few more drinks and decided to head out for some site-seeing. We ended up in the red light district. This really is an interesting place to visit. It was like walking straight into Amsterdam. There were prostitutes in the windows and everything. It's just one of those things that you hear about, but never really think that you'll come across.

( Erik & Justin at the HOF )

( the trek to Wa Bar )

( Erik, Se-hyeon [새현], Calvin & Justin )

( Justin & Calvin basking in the red lights )

( Justin showing off )

After our exploration, we decided to set our  bearings straight by making it back to the motel for a little bit of pre-gaming. By this time I wasn't feeling the greatest, so Erik worked his magic and brought me back to life. We had some drinks and headed back into the night.

( pre-gaming / resuscitation )

( What else would you expect? )

We stopped into a little mart to buy a few beers, and we ended up meeting a group of guys that wanted nothing more than to show us a good time. They took us to a number of bars that ended up being failures, and eventually they took us to a norae-bang to meet up with some of their friends. We drank, sang, danced and eventually moved on. From what I remember, there was a girl that insisted on having me sing "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion with her. We did surprisingly well; I'm not proud of this, but I'm just saying. You can't very well scoff at a 100%.

The next thing I know, we are standing around in the freezing cold, shooting the shit with a huge mass of Koreans, and Justin is yelling coward in Korean (겁쟁이 [geopjaengi]), at a Korean and shoving a bottle of soju in his face. I look over to see what's going on and Justin is drinking half a bottle of soju without even hesitating. This is when the antagonization escalated. I was in a blur of conversations, when I notice that Calvin is no longer looking like the same person. He had this strange child-like glimmer in his eye, like he had reverted to some strange alternate reality. We tried to send him back to the motel in a cab, but he just ended up bolting into the abyss of Wonju. Erik & I then scoured the streets, trying to seek out Justin who had temporarily disappeared, too. When we finally found him, he was having too good of time with the Korean gang of youngsters. We left him with the responsibility and embarked on yet another journey.

( new friends )

( new friends )

( This is probably what we were seeing the entirety of this trip. )

( 겁쟁이!! )

( mmhmm )

( Look who we ran into again! )

( We found him laying in garbage. )

The two of us decided to go back to the red light district for the sunrise. This sounds silly, but this part of town had a very special type of atmosphere. It was super slummy. Lots of narrow alley ways that led up and down steep hills lined with pink lights and hookers. When you reach the top of this neighborhood, you find yourself looking out over dilapidated buildings and roofs that required repair decades ago. We both bought a few bottles of beer, and began our hike to the top of this area. When we had reached the peak, we cracked our beers, leaned back, and enjoyed the sunrise. It was one of those moments. I really wish the story ended there, but nope.

We returned to the motel to find both Justin and Calvin had arrived. Calvin was passed out beyond belief, and a whole host of shenanigans ensued because of this fact. We drew on his face, threw just about everything in the room on top of him, and pulled his mattress, and well, his body out into the hallway. After taking a number of photos posing with the motionless comatose-esque Calvin in the hallway, we retired to our warm motel room. Before I was even in bed, there was a knock on the door that was followed promptly by a man's voice making a siren sound and yelling, "POLICE!" Justin & Erik quickly jumped in bed, pulled the covers over their heads & pretended to be asleep, leaving me with the responsibility of dealing with this. I went to the door to find the desk clerk pointing at Calvin and speaking quickly in Korean. I stared until he stopped, then shrugged. This process repeated two or three times, until he pointed to the security camera and said, "CCTV." I understood; he had seen the whole thing. He helped me carry Calvin back in the room, and then we all went to bed. The sun was up and it was probably 8am by this time. We wouldn't have known the difference. They keep love motels dark as shit.

Well, we were supposed to check out at 8am, so naturally, we awoke at 1:30 and rolled out. Calvin wasn't too angry about the Sharpe on his face; he actually laughed about it. Well, about that sharpe, and the sharpe on his back that read, "Stramp Tramp..." It was a good night. Erik took to the roads and had us back to Suwon in a couple hours.

( Erik. )

( me. )

( yep, the desk clerk was watching )

I have more stories from that trip than I ever though I'd have, and I laughed more than I had in my entire life.

Good Trip.

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