It feels good to be back in front of the computer, thinking through my fingertips again. As much as I enjoy Faraaz’s detailed accounts of his experience thus far, I miss reflecting on mine. So far, life is good. This blog has proven more popular than I envisioned- we have had views as far as the US and UK despite not knowing anybody on those continents. On top of that, my school gave me last Friday off (due to Sports Day) so I scored a long weekend while the rest of Korea worked (OH YEAH). I chose to spend my long weekend with Faraaz for many reasons; the main two being that Anmyeon Island (Anmyeon-do) is apparently an amazing holiday destination for most Koreans. As a result, I had tried to head there for a weekend last year but most websites I had consulted told me it was too difficult for foreigners to travel to Anmyeon-do on their own. They said I would need a car and maybe a driver, and would need to speak Korean much better than I can. Well now that Faraaz was living there, I could prove them wrong. The second reason is that I wanted to see how Faraaz was doing. Remember, that I had spent the better part of last year wondering, “What Would Faraaz Do (if he were here)?” And now he is. So I wanted to see just how he was living and existing here in the ROK (Republic of Korea).
Getting to Anmyeon Island is indeed a mission including a 2 hour bus to Taean (the closest city) and then another 30 min bus ride to the island itself via a connecting highway. Sometimes you can get a direct bus but that seems to be a matter of luck or chance. When you drive through Korea, or ride a bus or train, you pass through many mountainsides and farmland. Whenever I go down the highways of Korea I am amazed at how much is still left undeveloped. However, I am grateful that parts of Korea are still not modernized. On the strip of road that connects the island to mainland Korea, you are surrounded by towering pine tress in Taean forest and then miles of aquamarine sea. It’s all very scenic and pretty. The island has a tiny bus terminal where they try to squeeze far too many buses than it can accommodate. Buses from Anmyeon-do run to very specific places in Korea. From the island bus terminal it’s easy to catch a cab or walk to Faraaz’s place.
Having lived in Korea for a year, and more importantly, traveled around Korea, I can say that Anmyeon-do is as rural as it gets. The island is famous for its sunsets, beautiful sandy seaside and a National Recreation Forest full of a rare kind of wild pine tree called “Anmyeonsong” growing only on the island. With no department stores on the island, infrequent buses and that clean country air, this was the opposite of my experience when I first got to Korea. The first thing that struck me about Anmyeon-Do was the lack of apartment buildings. Yes, everything is on the ground floor- amazing! Was I still in Korea? Thus, Faraaz’s apartment is not really an apartment as such- it’s just a part of a big house. It’s big by Korean standards, considering that only one person lives there and has everything he needs.
Situated in front of a huge forest does make for problems with mold and mildew abut Faraaz seems to have taken it in his stride. On Friday afternoon, Faraaz went to the Taean immigration office to give his fingerprints and open a bank account. Whilst he was gone, I cooked some pasta and bemoaned the lack of cutlery at his place (he had no forks). His place is set right into the countryside. It was great to hear the sound of crickets and frogs in the spring afternoon while I cooked. After the long bus journey and Faraaz’s busy day in Taean, Friday was spent eating and relaxing with some episodes of Modern Family.
On Saturday we walked to the nearest supermarket called Hana Mart so I could help Faraaz stock up his place with the necessary groceries, hangers and cutlery. It was the usual story I have done many times before with so many others who have come here. We carried the stuff home and I took a nap while he set about doing more tidying and washing. In the late afternoon we took a walk to Kkotji Beach. There are numerous beaches along the west side of Anmyeon-do and the Taean peninsula. The one we went to is Kkotji Beach, one of the more popular beaches. In the middle of summer this place is probably packed with people, but this being spring, the beach was not too crowded at all. Very nice!
This beach is separated from the Taean peninsula by a narrow waterway. The peninsula and island form a bulge out into the Yellow Sea (which separates Korea and china) midway down the western coast of Korea. The Yellow sea was quite cold so we didn’t swim but we walked around a bit and I became so excited at the amount of beautiful seashells lying about. I was surprised they were still there and no one had plucked them from the sand. But it was low tide so the seabed was exposed and people were more interested in the live sea creatures to be found. It was very relaxing and it felt good to have my feet in some sand after a long time.
As we walked along the beach, I couldn’t help but keep my gaze downwards, for besides the seashells there were also many sea creatures… especially starfish. It was like I had walked into an aquarium. But really it was just the tidal pools. It felt exhilarating to be back at a beach. The smell of suntan lotion mixed in with sea salt on the wind brought me back to my youth when I played on the shores of KZN.
It was a long walk to the beach, along the beach and back home from the beach. So after we got home and cooked some potato curry for supper, we passed out.
Sunday was a rather lazy day starting with me making a pile of pancakes and a banana smoothie. A breakfast my father would have been proud of! After breakfast I went back to nap (Haha!) while Faraaz did more cleaning and sorting. Around 1pm we walked to the bus terminal and I jumped on a bus to Cheonan. It was a long ride home where I dozed off for a while but eventually made it home safely and slept fitfully.
Now I understand why Anmyeon island, being the sixth largest island in Korea, is quite a well-known spot for a weekend getaway among both Koreans and foreigners due to its picturesque landscape that features rocky cliffs, pristine beaches and pine trees. Faraaz may be far away from the rest of Korea but I actually think that’s a great thing that will make him appreciate the concrete jungle that mainland Korea (mostly) is.
In the next post we will talk about teaching in Korea… what really goes on.
Getting to Anmyeon-Do:
From Cheonan or Onyang Bus Terminal buy a ticket for Taean (The bus stops in Seosan first- buses run 13 times a day). From Taean Bus Terminal take a direct bus to Anmyeon-eup (Running time- 7a.m. to 9p.m., 30 minute interval, 40 minute travel time).
To get to Anmyeondo from Seoul via car, get on the West Coast Expressway and exit from Hongseong interchange that appears after passing Seosan and Haemi. After passing the toll gate, follow the signs towards Anmyeon Bridge that will take you to the island.
From Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal (Subway Line 3, Nambu Bus Terminal Station, exit # 5), take a bus to Anmyeondo Island (4 hour bus ride, First Bus: 06:40, Last Bus: 16:00, Buses depart every 40-90mins and run 11 times a day)
For more pictures check out Faraaz’s facebook album: