[personal profile] niori_1709
I'm not going to lie- Namhae was a really disappointing trip. It had so much promise - a trip to an island down south over the Buddha's birthday long weekend, with seeing the sunrise on a mountain temple, some awesome beaches and a kick ass kayaking trip-, but because of (quite frankly) terrible planning and organization on the part of the tour group, it was a total mess. The only reason the trip didn't totally suck was because I met some amazing people who I still hand out with to this day. The first problem was the fact we rode all night on the bus (four hours).

Which, okay, isn't terrible. The terrible part? Arriving at four AM and having to hike a bloody mountain on only an hour or so of bus sleep. That was hard, because it was a steep mountain. I was smart (and lazy) and took a shuttle bus up. That was a good call, because it wasn't even a real mountain hike. It was the group walking up the asphalt road that led to the temple. When it comes to mountain hiking in Korea, that's really boring. Even with the shuttle bus, I still had to walk up a steep hill for a good fifteen minutes. The main issue? The group promised a 'gradual incline', basically telling us it was a medium difficulty walk. That was certainly not a 'gradual incline'. It sounds like the group leader read a description on the internet without actually knowing what the mountain was like.

The beginning of the trip wasn't a total waste. At the (roughly) top of Mt. Geumsan was Boriam Temple. The way up to the temple was lined with lit paper lanterns on both sides. It was dark and silent, and beautiful. The further I got up, the lighter it became. By the time I reached the temple, the sky had gone from midnight black to royal blue. There was a town down at the base of the mountain, with the sea as well. For a long time, all you saw was twinkling lights. It was a hazy, overcast morning, so the sunrise wasn't a big picture of red and gold, but a gradual lightening of the sky from blue to grey, with a dash of pink on the horizon.

Boriam Temple is a pretty small temple, but interesting and beautiful nonetheless. It's a hermitage, and has a few shrines as well as a residential hall for the monks. There's also a three story pagoda. The pagoda is said to be built from stones brought from India. The pagoda was to mark the building of a temple to hold Buddha's relics. The temple is special because it's one of the three places in Korea dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. There's a beautiful statue of the bodhisattva in the same courtyard as the three story pagoda. The temple was silent save for the chanting of monks (which is a very relaxing sound). It was cold, but that didn't stop the people from coming to pray there, to begin Buddha's birthday. It was, without a doubt, the most amazing way to observe Buddha's birthday. It was beautiful and peaceful, and certainly one of the best moments of the trip was exploring the temple.

Leaving the temple, however, was a different story. This is where the hot mess of planning really took off. There was a vague 'we'll meet at blah time'...but they didn't tell us where to meet. There was a lot of confusion, not only because we were split up so badly. Not only between the shuttle bus and hiking people, but within the hikers themselves. The good hikers? Up to the temple in half and hour. The bad ones? About an hour and a half. Of course, the guides were in the first group, and instead of waiting at the top to make sure that everyone knew what was happening, they went at their own pace and did their own thing (a recurring theme throughout the weekend, sadly). A lot of people sat at the top and had no idea what to do from there. As for the rest of us, we decided to take the shuttle bus or hike back down, though that took a lot more time than anticipated because of traffic.

By the time everyone finally found their way back to the bus, it was about an hour after we were supposed to leave. Another recurring theme, as it would turn out. The day didn't get anymore organized from there.

One of the draws of Namhae island is the beaches. Over the three days, we were set to visit three beaches. The first one, Silver Sands Beach, was the destination right after we got off the mountain. Silver Sands Beach is one of those dream beaches, with soft golden sand and sparkling blue water. It was fairly warm (the water not so much, since it was still Spring), so I kicked off my shoes and walked the length of the beach a few times, exploring, collecting rocks and shells and drawing in the sand. I could have spent a few good hours on that beach...
Too bad that wasn't going to happen. Since we had stayed so long at the temple, our hour at the beach was cut in half (not nearly enough time). I disliked it, but figured that we still had two more beaches to enjoy, so my longing on the beach. Yes, not so much, but more on that later.

Next stop was the rice terraces. Based on the picture showed on the group's website, this sight looked gorgeous. The rice fields were built on top of another, jolting out in terraces that layered the hillside. Each terrace was filled with water, which is essential for growing rice, just waiting to be gathered. That was the picture, but not the reality.

The rice terraces were still there, with over a hundred steps of them going up the hill (which, admittedly, was an impressive sight). What was missing, however, was the water. Turns out, rice wasn't in season, so the terraces were filled with tall stalks of plant life. The water was what made it look so cool, so without it...well, let's just say I was pretty 'meh' about my time spent there.

The 'meh' continued throughout the day, with a few glimmering examples of awesome. After the rice terraces, we went to the pension we would be staying at. Good news: I got one of the rooms with a bed! Bad news: It was on the middle of a hill, and fifteen minutes from where we would spend the majority of our time, and we had to walk it. On another note, there were no restaurants and the closest (half decent) convenience store was a good twenty to twenty-five minutes away on foot. That said, out accommodations could have been much, much worse.

After getting settled, we took the bus over to the German Village, which was only five minutes away. I found the whole idea of the German Village interesting: It was built for returning immigrant workers, who went to Germany after the Korean War to learn valuable trade skills. The government wanted to make any culture shock easier to deal with, so the German Village was built (there was also an American Village we drove by, but we didn't stop there).

Much like the rice terraces, the German Village turned out to be les than what was advertised. The buildings were supposed to be German style, but they really weren't. They certainly weren't Korean and vaguely European, but not German (there were people who had travelled through Germany who backed me up). Frankly, the only thing that came across as particularly German was the food served in the cafe (the waffles were delicious) and the vast assortment of German beer they had in the bar (which didn't interest me, for obvious reasons).
That said, the place wasn't a complete disappointment. It was a cute, homey village that was nice to walk through. Besides the quaintness the village itself possessed, there was the added benefit of having an art village right beside it. Despite the name, it's not actually a village. It's actually more of a beautiful garden with buildings in various world styles scattered here and there. It was spring, so many colourful flowers were out in bloom. The paths were lovely, in a little confusing. There were classical statues everywhere, and it certainly didn't feel like I was walking through a garden in Korea.

The art part of the name comes from the building at the end of the village, at the top of a hill (when aren't they?). It's a building that not only displays art, but where you can do some crafts as well. There were three available: Making a wall decoration, decorating chocolate and making an image to be pasted on a mug. Originally, I had wanted to decorate chocolate (who wouldn't?), but because I got there so late, they were no longer doing it. I was sort of upset, but decided to do the mug thing instead. I drew out the silhouette of a black swan, wrote my Greek letters out and voila! A DHI mug I'll keep until the end of my days. Of course I did it wrong and the picture is backwards, but whatever!

I almost didn't get to do the art village, all because of the poor organization of our leaders. I liked them, and thought they were cool people. I didn't, however, appreciate how some of them cared more about getting drunk and having fun than leading, or how others had no patience. In the case of the art village, one of the leaders was going to lead those who waned to go to the art village there, and the other would take anyone interested to the bar. Problem was, they didn't tell us who was who. They waited until about half of us were off the bus, and left before the rest of us were off. That left those of us at the back of the bus, like me, had no idea what to do. The girl who I was with and I legitimately wandered around for half an hour before we got into the art village, since there was no English (at least no one who could speak it). I still say it's only sheer stubbornness that we finally figured out how to get into the bloody place.

After meeting up with a few people in the art village, we decided to head down to the music festival site a fifteen minute walk away from the village. It was right next to a small village of about thirty Korean style houses, and I'll admit were got lost down some back alleys. The festival was offering a barbeque for 20,000 won, but my picky eating habits struck again, and there was nothing I really liked there. Thankfully, in true Korean fashion, ramen was for sale. For some reason I don't understand, the festival's music acts were all English, same as the festival as a whole. Sadly, it was all very, very bad music. Some of it was ear bleeding bad. The two good points were when I got an awesome portrait drawn of me and got my face painted with a cool design.

There was going to be a bonfire on the beach that night, but there was no way I was sticking around for that. I was running on two hours of travel sleep, and by eight PM, I was exhausted. I didn't want to do anything but sleep. So I made the trek up to the pension, curled up in bed and basically passed out until the next day. Thus ended day one.



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