Saturday, October 24, 2009

Korea Day 9 - Cheongju (Thanks Betsy!)

We left the hotel early in the morning, guided by the indomitable and indispensable Betsy once again, and driven in an elegant private taxi-van (Jumbo Taxi) . We went south across the Han River, and then west along the river before turning south once again and into the countryside. The entire trip was on big highways, although once we got past the thousands and thousands of tall apartment buildings that make up the greater Seoul area, we emerged into mountainous landscapes with full autumn colors on the trees, and wonderful glimpses of farm life, small villages, occasional pagodas, cemeteries (dome-shaped tombs), and so much more. There was tons of new construction happening, and we also noticed that much of the food is grown in plastic greenhouses, which cover huge portions of the landscape, even around the big apartment buildings. On the highway we saw plastic men used to direct traffic, full-size mannequins dressed in traffic control clothing and holding blinking light wands urging us to merge left or right. No humans needed to stand on the highway all day - just use a robot!

The Craft Biennale at Cheongju (about 2 hours away) was so dazzling. It was held at a giant exhibition area, like a fairgrounds, with huge buildings full of the best international "craft" work from around the world. Here are our giggling greeters!
There was also a performance stage, with continuous music, dance, and folk performances, as well as numerous places to eat. Also booths for shopping for ceramics, textiles, jewelry, toys, etc. We all felt that what we saw was so imaginative, breathtaking and inspiring. We were there all day, just stunned by the high level of the art work. There was an entire show from Canada, an entire building of book arts, an entire building where winners of an international competition were showing work in glass, textile, wood, fiber, ceramic, jewelry, as well as huge and wild installations, and on it went! We saw about 6 buildings full of art work. WOW! We were not allowed to take photos of any of the work, so today was a thin photo day for me. Here's a photo of a charming paper-maker who was demonstrating his techniques in one of the outdoor artisan's booths.One interesting thing here is that health is such a HUGE focus all over Korea. Yesterday, when we arrived, we all had to walk one-by-one past a body temp sensor, to make sure we did not have a fever. People who did were pulled over and individually examined before entry was allowed. Next we had to sanitize our hands, and then we were issued face masks. This has been true again and again in Korea. And most buildings and most bathrooms have ultra-violet hand sanitizers at every door. Another notable thing is that most public parks have circuit exercise courses in them where people can work out on every variety of exercise machine as they take their daily strolls.We also noticed that Saturdays seemed to be casual dress days for men, but fancy dress days for women. Many women were in full-out designer outfits, to die for, and men were in traditional Korean attire.Here's are some views of downtown Cheongju, very colorful!
We got back to the hotel at about 6 pm, and after regrouping, went out for more "chicken and beer" at an eatery behind the hotel. Betsy also ordered fish cakes, something I've seen all over from the street vendors, skewered various shapes of fish cakes served in a soup. Yummy! For a final hurrah, before collapsing into a coma, we walked down to the Cheonggye Stream, a waterway, which is kind of like an artistic canal that runs through Seoul. It is below street level, has walkways along both sides, and light shows, lighted rocks in the canal, waterfalls, shooting fountains, stepping stones, music playing, and hundreds of people strolling. Betsy explained that this is a popular place for people to come and kiss and hug at night, and we saw many young couples demonstrating. It was all clean as a whistle, nobody doing drugs or drinking, no hassle, just a joyful evening walk in a joyful city. Love it here! Thanks again, Betsy, number 1 tour guide and all-around terrific person!

4 comments:

Lee Jungju said...

Mrs. Jardin
It was pleasure to me reading about Cheongju where I live and your view point offered me different views that a foreigner’s though of our environment and culture. Recently about sixty Korean passed away by Swine flu. That’s because Korean people care so much about their health. We don’t want to be infected by that.
And I heard the news that aircraft festival held in hardship of the swine flu. Many people canceled ticket booked for visiting.
Lastly, there is wrong-information of the picture you mentioned as downtown of Chengju. But it is kind of college street of Chungbuk national university. Real downtown is quite bustling and colorful by ads. I just want to comment about your posting because as I said it was greeting to me.:)

Lee Jungju said...

Mrs. Jardin
It was pleasure to me reading about Cheongju where I live and your view point offered me different views that a foreigner’s though of our environment and culture. Recently about sixty Korean passed away by Swine flu. That’s because Korean people care so much about their health. We don’t want to be infected by that.
And I heard the news that aircraft festival held in hardship of the swine flu. Many people canceled ticket booked for visiting.
Lastly, there is wrong-information of the picture you mentioned as downtown of Chengju. But it is kind of college street of Chungbuk national university. Real downtown is quite bustling and colorful by ads. I just want to comment about your posting because it was greeting to me.

Sigrid Jardin said...

Dear Lee Jungju,
Thank you for reading my blog and giving me correct information about my photograph, and more information about Korea. As I hope you can tell, we loved Korea and thought that Cheongju was a lovely city! But as non-Korean speaking people, it was difficult to understand where we were or what we were seeing sometimes! We hope to return next year and visit more places!

Lee Jungju said...

Yes, I hope so. People may feel interesting to different culture even though it is just common life of there. I am also interest in other culture. I think I should love my culture more than now. So someday, when I visit other place I can notice it to people in confidence. And I also can learn from them. ^^ thanks for kind reply. –from Cheongju in South Korea Jungju