A day out in Cheongju

Trip Start Nov 11, 2004
Trip End Jan 02, 2006

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yesterday we went on a day trip to Cheongju. Nothing too remarkable in that you might think, as its only 45 minutes away and I go there quite often for shopping or to the big Carrefour supermarket.
But yesterday's trip was a bit of an excuse for Rachel, Young-Hun and I to spend what might be our last weekend all together doing something all together. Rachel goes back to England in two weeks and although she will coming back after Christmas, I will have left by then to go to Australia.
The original reason for spending the day in Cheongju was that we had official business at the Immigration Office proving that we weren't fake graduates. Young-Hun arranged to pick us up at 10am and we'd start from there.
First problem though; from 9am we had no electricity and so no hot water. In each apartment there is a speaker through which the building supervisor can make announcements: repair works, lifts out of action etc and there had been lots of announcements the day before, but they were all in Korean and so we just ignored them. Obviously they were letting everyone know that the electricity would be off for 3 hours on Saturday morning...
When we finally made it to Cheongju, wiped clean and hair unwashed, the Immigration Ofiice looked suspiciously empty, of immigrants and workers and, on closer inspection it transpired that office hours were Monday - Friday... No real surprise there, at least not to Rachel & I... Young-Hun was most surprised and perplexed. Honestly has anyone been anywhere where government offices are open at the weekend? He's on a different planet sometimes, but it is quite endearing.

We headed into the nearby shopping mall to find an early lunch before catching a movie. Dream Plus is an uninspiring looking mall but like a lot of uninspiring looking places it proves you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, as the food hall is amazingly cheap and amazingly good. So after stuffing ourselves silly on ggas we went up to the 8th floor to watch "Lord of War" with Nicholas Cage. I have to admit it hadn't sounded like the most inspiring choice, and maybe it's because I haven't seen a film in the cinema for a while (so the experience seemed quite exciting again...) but I was watching it like I'd never been to see a film before in my life. It was kind of interesting, but I think I need a couple of days to think about that and so I reserve the right to change my mind...

For ages now Young-Hun had been promising to take us to see the big golden statue of Buddha, so while it was still light it seemed a good time to visit. It's not actually in Cheongju but Eumseong, a smaller town in our province and about 45 minutes drive. By the time we got there it was starting to get dark and cold but it was worth it. The statue stands about 100 ft high and is painted gold. From the highway driving up you can see the Buddha's head poking up above the trees. There was no actual temple building, Young-Hun thought it was further up the hill, but in front of the statue was a raised square for prayers and behind him were speakers playing music and speaking (something...) in soothing Buddhist tones. He was positioned part way up a hill, so he overlooked the cemetery.
But Buddha was awe inspiring enough without needing a decorative building around him. Standing there staring up at him, he looked intimidating and I had a flash of the awesome moment in Jason and the Argonauts when the statue of Talos turns his head to fix on Hercules after he has plundered his treasures. I'm glad Buddha didn't turn his gaze on me, he was chilling enough without any special effects.

To finish the evening off we came back to Jincheon and to one of Young-Hun's favourite fish barbecue restaurants. Well, it used to be a fish barbecue, now its a spicy fish soup restaurant. It was delicious. And very spicy. Every bit of the fish was cooking in the soup, including some revolting looking egg sacs (!?) I did try a little bit of them, but just weren't to my taste. Apparently they are a delicacy and according to Young-Hun they are the bits that everyone fights for. Well lucky for him, he had no competition for them today.
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