The Fox In The Cave, and The Peacocks Above, Part 2

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March 15, 2019, Hallim, Jeju-do-

Emerging from Ssanyong-gul had, momentarily, an other-worldly ambiance.

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We were re-entering a place with the sense of Paradise, and one taking the shape of 2/3 of a heart.  This was appropriate, given the theme of this journey.

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Some observers liken this piece, at the entrance to the Stone and Bonsai Garden, to an eagle. To me, it seemed a mighty angel.

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This is so very true.

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A patient and long-suffering mother comforts a squawling child, just shy of the Gift Shop.

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I found myself looking at Dino, from “The Flintstones”.

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This wind-polished basalt presents several smug-looking likenesses, especially on the top front.

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Despite the chill and drizzle of the past several days, the cherry and apple trees are starting to fully bloom.

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So, too, are the camellia bushes.

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The incredible range of the sculptures in the Stone Collection could enchant a visitor for days.

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This piece evokes Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”.

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The superimposed basalt here reminds me of likenesses of Queen Nefirtiti, of ancient Egypt.

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As is common in water parks, koi have a considerable presence, here in Hallim Park

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As in Seong-eup, preserved thatched-roof homes of old Jeju are found here in Hallim.  There seems to be a tighter binding of the thatch, among those homes of the western part of the island.  This style is specific to Hallim, Hyop-jae and Aewol villages.

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Peacocks abound here, especially in the area designated Bird Park.

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Ostriches cap the offerings of Bird Park, and it is fascinating to watch the great birds eat.

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A faux waterfall invites visitors to consider going to Jeju’s authentic cataracts.

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This Peace Monument expresses the hope of the Korean people for eventual unification of the peninsula.

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Thus, we caught a snapshot of Hallim Park, which could easily have occupied a full eight hours.  There was, however, a plane to catch, back to Busan.  My final day in Korea, on this trip, will take in some of the port city’s highlights-around Marine City and Haeundae.

 

The Fox in the Cave, and the Peacocks Above- Part 1

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March 15, 2019, Hallim, Jeju-do-

We got out of Ga San Ho Bang, in relatively short order, this morning, as there was a fairly long drive ahead of us and breakfast had to be factored into the mix.  We went up Jeju’s west coast to Hallim, site of both yellow sand and lava beaches.

Settling on a small establishment that offered the abalone porridge I’d been craving for a day or so, my intrepid young hosts found themselves invited to cook their own eggs to order.

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Chefs for a morning

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Abalone porridge and tuk-pae-gi (seafood hotpot) were accompanied by side dishes.

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Below, is myok-guk, or Korean seaweed soup.

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Arriving at Hallim Park, a multivariate sampler of Jeju life, along with a rich botanical garden and aviary, we strode this blend of tropical and mountain flora.

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Before long, we entered Hyopjae-gul (cave), which Penny, Aram and I had visited once, when he was about a year old.  The first of three caves on this site, Hyop-jae is largely sedimentary rock.  Another cave on the route is made of lava.

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On this rock, which fell from the roof of the cave, one can see luminescence-from microorganisms that thrive on its surface.

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When we emerged from Hyopjae-gul, we were greeted by this small army of Stone Guardians.  The collection is one of the master works of Hallim Park’s founder, Song Bong-gyu.

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Mr. Song is still alive and working hard, to constantly improve his visionary work.

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Once past the dol-harubang collection, I decided to get a fuller view.

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I reflected on this message, as we walked.  I am in the prime of my life, right now, but there are always challenges to face, both internally, and from people who have floated in and out of my life.

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Mr. Song gathered these faceless stone guardians, perhaps as a reminder that there are always those around us who give away little of their thoughts and intentions.

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Yunhee is an example of a shining light, in the midst of darkness. This scene is in Ssangyong (Two Dragons) Cave, so named because legend has it that two great fire-breathers once lived here.

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I took photos in this cave, without using flash, so as to minimize disruption to the experience of our fellow visitors and to emphasize that there is a modicum of bio luminescence here.

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There is a legend of a certain Dr. Jin, who. as a child, chose to explore Ssangyong Cave, rather than go directly to school.  He found the company of a delightful young girl, who had a bead with which they played, as well as dancing about and singing.  Unbeknownst to him, the girl was actually a fox, which had shape-shifted in order to enchant Dr. Jin.  One day, young Jin swallowed the bead and found himself feeling quite ill. He encountered a man, outside the cave, who warned him that the girl was really this fox and that he would not be able to return to the cave.  Jin recovered and went on to become a legendary healer.

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With that, I leave you and will return with Part 2 of our Hallim Park adventure:  The Stone Art, Tropical Botanic Garden and Bird Park exhibits, as well as an indoor Stone Art collection.

Jeju’s Wild Southwest Corner

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March 14, 2019, Sogwip’o, Jeju-

When I was getting ready to leave Jeju-do, in 1992, one of a series of exit interviews was a visit with the then-mayor of Sogwip’o, southern Jeju’s commercial center and the present governmental unit for all of Jeju, south of Halla-san.  He asked me whether Sogwip’o had a bright future and whether I would promote the area, once in the United States.

At the time, all I could do, promotion-wise, was talk the area up, among friends and acquaintances. I did, however, see that it had a bright future.  Time has borne this out.  Sogwip’o’s population has climbed to over 100,000 residents, including a fair number of condominium owners from China ( as is also the case with Jeju-shi) -enticed by the favourable China policy of the island province’s government.

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Nonetheless, I found the sections of Sogwip’o that we visited are still quite blessed by natural beauty, though the whole development of the coast  has resulted in a drop in the water table, and some drying up of the area’s waterfalls, as was evident when we went to Jeongjeyon.

Our first stop, though, was a coastal beach in the village of Jeungmun, which is the site of a Hyatt Regency Hotel.  This was a place we visited on occasion, when we lived here, as Penny and I knew the General Manager of the hotel.  It is also the site of a meeting between then- South Korean President Roh Tae-woo and then- Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1991.

One of my favourite natural spots in Jeju is adjacent to the Hyatt:  Jusangjeoli.  It is a segment of volcanic beach, which we once accessed from the Hyatt’s own beach.  So, the three of us went down to the beach, from a fairly new area, highlighting Jeju’s citrus industry, which is one of the island’s economic staples-along with tourism.

Here are some of the scenes we encountered.

This large conch mock-up draws attention to Jeju’s equally important marine products industry- offering a plenitude of fish, shellfish and kelp.

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The main draw for tourists, though, is the lava-strewn beach.  As with Songsan, a wide variety of shapes may be discerned, on Jusangjeoli’s paths.

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The dragon countenance is found in many areas of Jeju.

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These slats are not a mock-up of a luxury development.  Wind and water shaped them, over the centuries.

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The likenesses at the head of this formation are not a pair  I’d want to meet in a dark alley.

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Jeju’s sheerest cliffs are found here at Jusangjeoli.

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This Peace Park, between Jusangjeoli and the Hyatt, is a place for both quiet reflection and the romping of spirited children, who like to hopscotch and play tag, around the surrounding zodiac stones.

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As this had been a very full day, already, we chose one of Seogwipo’s three waterfalls to visit.  Jeongjeyon is further west and north of the other two (Jeongjiyon and Jeongbang).  Its namesake waterfall has dried up, as a consequence of condominium development- something of an issue now, between locals and Chinese immigrants, who favour such development as a way to invest their income.

Nonetheless, Jeongjeyon has a continuing aesthetic appeal.  There is no dam here, just a lack of running water, at this site of the first cataract.

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The second cataract proved the most active of the three.

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Here are some stairs to nowhere, in particular.

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Despite the shortage of running water, Jeongjeyon’s flora is thick and prolific.

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The second cataract also seemed to be a bit on the mild side, in terms of flow.

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Visitors drop coins into the third cataract’s pool, as a means of making a wish.

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This is Seonimgyo, or Seven Nymphs Bridge, which connects Jeongjeyon Falls with the Jeungmyun Tourist Complex.  It depicts the seven nymphs, of legend, who descended from Heaven, at night.

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The third cataract had more water, and also required the most stair climbing.

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We were quite worn-out, by this point,  So, after a delicious seafood meal, we headed for our lodging.

 

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Ga San Ho Bang is a dormitory-style hotel, offering yurt-style rooms, with male and female shared bathrooms. I was well-rested, after a night in this cone-shaped room.  It had ondol, or water-heated floor pipes, so the room was especially cozy.

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NEXT:  Hallim Park- Caves, Botanic Gardens and An Army of Stone Guardians

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeju, Part 2: Jeju Stone Park in Fresh Eyes

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March 13, 2019, Jeju-

My camera’s battery quit, midway through our Jeju Stone Park experience.  Fortunately, my son, Aram, who is also my co-host, had a fresh, new camera on hand. So, without further ado, here are twelve more photos of the park, chosen at random from those he shared with me.

I’d guess this is a frog-spirit, in prayer.

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Perhaps, this is a disconsolate basset hound.

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This could be a model of the lake, at the top of Mt. Halla.

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Here is a geode, turned into a globe.

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Paek Un-cheol had these mounted, back in Tamna Mokseokwon.

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This eerie scene features the Guardian Children, also brought from Mokseokwon.

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“Your turn to curtsy, my turn to bow.”

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Another dystopian scene-perhaps an anti-Stonehenge.

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The Museum, seen from the west.

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This great pile of boulders resembles a tumulus, particularly with the stone entrance way.

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This new institute for the furtherance of Jeju culture has several admirers, eagerly waiting for its 2020 opening.

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My daughter-in-law, a curator at the museum, and I are on our way off the grounds.

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Needless to say, I will be back in a few years, as Korea is certainly part of my extensive travel itinerary, post-retirement.

NEXT: Songsan Ilchulbong, Where the Sun Greets Jeju.

 

 

Jeju, Part 1: The Stone Dream of Mr. Paek

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March 13, 2019, Jeju, South Korea-

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There are new discoveries, in this life, constantly-and there are re-discoveries.  Today, the three of us headed down to Jeju, a burgeoning resort island, off Korea’s southwest coast.  From 1986-92, Penny and I were part of Jeju, serving as Visiting Professors of English, in two departments of Cheju National University.  Aram became part of the community, in 1988, being one of two American children born on the island, up to that point.

During that time, Mr. Paek Un-cheol, a spiritual gem of a man, was waging a small but concerted effort to preserve Jeju’s unique traditional culture.  He found an amazing variety of figures, made naturally by water and wind, among the volcanic rocks and driftwood that dotted various points along the island’s shores and on the mountain slopes of its interior.

His first effort, Tamna Mokseokwon, was a constant haven for us to visit and regain a natural semblance of order and serenity.  With his mother’s passing, and with development in the name of tourism becoming a growing threat to Jeju’s traditional culture, Mr. Paek found an ally in the same officials who were a driving force in that very tourism development, the Board of Supervisors of North Jeju County, the area comprising the northern half of the island outside Jeju City proper.  Jeju-shi, as it is known in Korean, has since subsumed the county, with Seogwip’o-shi (So-gi-PO) having subsumed the southern half of the island.

In 1999, the two sides found common ground in establishing Jeju Stone Park, and in 2005, the new park opened to the public.  We took in the eastern part of the park, and its museum, in the two hours we had.  Another visit, or two, looms in the future.  In this post, I will share those scenes captured, before my hard-working camera’s battery ran low.  In a second post, scenes captured by my son’s camera will be featured.

So, here are seventeen scenes to be found at Jeju Stone Park, a place that could easily enchant me for a full day, at minimum.

We found ourselves among the few remaining visitors, as this was a cold, brisk afternoon.

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These arrangements leave much to the imagination.  What do you suppose this rock resembles?

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Here are some traditional Jeju thatched roof houses.  One may stay in such a home, for W40,000 per night.

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Here, I envisioned a standing bear and a pair of witches.

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These nineteen steps commemorate Mr. Paek’s agreement with the County Board of Supervisors, in 1999.

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These are some of the figures I recognize from Tamna Mokseokwon.

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The legend of Grandmother Seolmundae is the impetus for the preservation of Jeju’s stone heritage.

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Here are more figures, transported from Mokseokwon.

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My precious ones are captivated.

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These stone “wishing towers” are meant to honour the spirits that are said to inhabit the countryside of Jeju.

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Perhaps this is a likeness of such a spirit.

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Mr. Paek and a team of engineers created Sky Pond, to set the mood for a visit to the Park’s museum, and to honour the element of water.

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The museum itself contains many examples of both stone and tree root art.  This is stone depiction of the island of Jeju and its tributary isles.

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Reach out to the stones, but do not touch!

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Perhaps this bird is wanting freedom from its tether.

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I see duck, or perhaps a platypus.

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Here might stand a  Hadrosaur, or horn-billed dinosaur.

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In the next post, my son’s new camera will provide more magic, both in the museum and beyond.  What he found has convinced me to return to Jeju Stone Park, most likely during my envisioned lengthy travels, a few years hence. Then, I will wish to stay in one of those traditional Jeju houses.

 

 

Getting Squared Away

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March 12, 2019, Busan-

We bid farewell to the Shin branch of my extended family, with a fine dinner last night and a heartfelt  series of bows, this morning.  After a few family photos, we were off to the Korea Boivins’ home, here in this crossroads port.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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There is always a greeter, no matter where one goes in life.  This figure is in the lobby of Aram’s and Yunhee’s apartment building.

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After a fashion, we headed for Shinsegae Department Store, where we first had an American-style dinner, at Johnny Rocket’s, then went suit shopping-for me.  The family wanted to gift me with a new suit, so they did.  It’s a Spring through Fall suit, blue as opposed to my black winter suits, which have had to suffice up to now.  A dress shirt was chosen, to accompany said suit.  With that, and a coffee, downstairs, the shopping jaunt was done.  I guess in some circles,  I’m a wet blanket.

NEXT:  Journey back to Jeju

 

 

Hanok Village: History as Enterprise, Part II

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March 11, 2019, Jeonju, South Korea-

As promised, I continue here with the second half of our little family’s tour of this blend of history and modern entrepreneurship.  It most closely reminds me of the Belgian city of Bruges, in that regard.

We felt the need for lunch, so we stopped at Kyodong Dok Kalbi, which offers a limited number of pibimbap dishes, along with a chopped, pressed and pre-cooked version of Kalbi (beef or pork ribs).   Their herbarium provides many of the key ingredients.

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Here, my Korean relatives observe the round of side dishes, which are essential in any true Korean meal. There are usually a few varieties of kimchi, steamed spinach, some small sardines, buckwheat noodles, and some cold pressed vegetable gelatin.  Miso (fermented soup) and a bowl of white rice accompany the meat.  We ate using chopsticks and a large spoon.

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Having eaten our fill of satisfying dok kalbi and “fixings”, we felt content as cherubim.

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So, we walked along the road that leads to a straw-roofed complex.  We came upon this irrigation stream, with various animals of the Oriental zodiac as conduits for the water.

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The fortunate woman has a husband who is willing to be her servant, at least on occasion.

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Jeonju is largely devoid of street murals, so this vertical rainbow was a sublime surprise.

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Many Korean families have at least a small garden plot.  This one is at a traditional Tea House, where we stopped for cups of medicinal herbal tea.

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It is the Tea House which sports the traditional “Jeobuk” straw roof.  The proprietress was surprised at the approach of a mixed group of Koreans and Americans, but was very gracious.

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To the east of Hanok, there lies a shanty area, climbing the hillside.  I took this photo from the Tea House grounds.  Later, we would get closer to the settlement, which lies across a divided highway.

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Here are the flowers of the cauliflower plant.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHere is a view of the Tea House’s main garden.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFor those wishing to sip their tea in an indoor setting, there is a silk-covered mat, on which one sits cross-legged.  The pearl-inlay chest is a common decor in many Korean homes.

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These yellow buttercups match their vase.

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This small shrine blesses the garden plants.

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Outside this small shrine is a depiction of one of the scenes from the Ten Ox-Herding Series, an allegory of one man’s quest for spiritual enlightenment.

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Here is a small Buddhist shrine.

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As we arrived at the edge of the highway, I looked across to the shanty, and spotted Edward Scissorhands.

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We left the heights and went back down to the main street of Hanok, passing this traditional pavilion, a gathering place in Jeoson days.

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Next, along the way, was the place where King Taejo was crowned first monarch of the Jeoson Dynasty.

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The coronation courtyard is graced by this stone wheel, dating from 1392.

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These stone lions guard the entrance to a nearby guest house.

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Thus ended our four-hour visit to Jeonju Hanok Village.  There is much more to this bustling district.  Perhaps a future visit will mean an overnight stay.

Feeling the need for some rejuvenation, we went to Damyang Spa Resort, about forty minutes north of the farmstead.  There, we experienced sauna, hot and cold waters, and I underwent a thorough treatment from an exfoliation specialist, a sort of masseur, who scrubbed me, head to toe, with a rough cloth, then rubbed cleansing oil.

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Hanok Village: History as Enterprise, Part 1

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March 11, 2019, Jeonju, South Korea-

After a  brief walk around the farmstead of  my hosts, Shin Dongwhon and Park Miwha (Many Korean women keep their maiden names, even in marriage), they, the new Mr. & Mrs. Boivin and I headed for Jeonju, the capital of Jeolla Buk-do (North Jeolla Province), famous for the hot pot, known as pibimbap (rice, mixed with vegetables, chopped meat and egg, then garnished with hot pepper sauce).  It is also well-known for maintaining historical buildings, as it is the birthplace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897).  The dynasty was founded by General Yi Song-gye, who became King Taejo as a result. He and his heirs instilled a strong Confucian ethos into Korean culture.  They also built Korea’s legacy of distinct language and literature. King Taejo’s heirs included his fourth-born son, who became Sejong the Great.  King Sejong, one of the seminal figures of Korean history, was committed to universal education.  In order for the masses to become literate more easily and quickly, Sejong commissioned the development of a phonetic alphabet, Hangul, which is still commonly used today.  He also commissioned the development of movable type, about the same time as Johannes Gutenberg was developing a movable type printing press, in what is now Germany.

With all this rich history, I was surprised that the emphasis in Jeonju’s historic district was not so much on telling the tale as on showing the buildings as they were and on the selling of goods and services.  Of course, any living community has to strike a balance between legacy and functionality, as Salem, MA, San Juan Capistrano, CA, St. Augustine, FL, Heidelberg, DEU-and Gyongju- a living history city,  in eastern South Korea, have all done.

Here are some photos of the day’s festivities- first of the farmstead, then of Jeonju Hanok Village.  First,  here is the home to which I was welcomed.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The koi pond has some rather shy inhabitants.

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Building stones and ollas (for storing kimchi) are essential to any Korean farmstead.

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A newborn rabbit needed warmth and safety.  He is hidden in the shorn fur of one of his elders.

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The rooster and his ladies were in full voice, this morning.

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This is a row of pine windbreak.

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This is  a view of Mr. Shin’s field.

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There, to greet us and send us off, is “Buri” (Barley), the family porch dog.   Korean farm dogs are rarely, if ever, allowed inside the house.

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Now let’s have a look at the first set of photos  of Jeonju Hanok Village.  Below, is the Hanok Visitors’ Center.

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Yunhee and her parents, in front of commemorative stone.

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Our side of the coin.

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“It still could snow, this Spring.”  Here is a traditional Jeollabuk-do tiled roof.

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More traditional Jeollabuk-do tile-roofed houses. Many of these are Guest Houses.

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This is the Year of the Boar, in the Lunar New Year configuration.

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Traditional Chollabuk-do home, with walled courtyard and shrines.

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Here are hanbok, traditional Korean formal dress.

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Here is a more upscale version of the Chollabuk-do tiled roof.  It was probably the home of a wealthy merchant or minor official.

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A more modern variation of traditional water wheel.

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These traditional shirts are actually made of paper.  We visited a paper-making establishment and saw various products, made of durable paper.

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Yunhee is watching a traditional demon mask, made of heavy paper.

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Mrs. Park is demonstrating traditional grain milling.

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It was a little chilly for an outdoor lunch, so we admired the courtyard and moved on.

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Here are some household decorations that graced a merchant’s home, in the early 20th Century.

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Here is a hilltop pavilion, probably used as Confucian shrine.

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“Spring is on its way”, say the cherry blossoms.

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A heavy-duty community level water wheel.

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Commemorative stone, indicating road leading to Confucian shrine.

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There are a number of other photos to share, of this large historic district.  I will post these in the next installment.

 

These Lengthening Ties

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March 11, 2019, Gyong-Meon, South Korea-

One of the questions I have been asked about the marriage of Aram and Yunhee is how I feel about my son marrying someone from another nation or culture.  (“Race” is left out of this, thankfully. )  My answer is very simple:  Aram has married a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman, who will bring great pride and joy to my family  We, in turn, will bring a great deal of the same to her equally distinguished family.

There was a time, even during our previous living in Korea, when language and cultural differences cast all manner of misunderstandings and suspicion upon even the strongest of work relationships and faith community affairs.  Slowly and carefully, we managed, by working together, to mitigate the worst of these.  Aram, being an infant and toddler at the time, was largely spared the relatively few insults and personal attacks that came our way-not just from more hidebound people in this society, but from equally narrow-minded people on the eastern shore of the Pacific as well.

My friendship with the Shin and Park families has been instantaneous.  There is none of the rancour or suspicion of the 1980’s and ’90’s to soil the life of the extended family.  The growing pains have eased, and we have found that there is an authentic human bond.

This is as Baha’u’llah intended, in calling for the spiritual unification of the entire planet- before other forms of unity are truly realized  This does not mean uniformity, which is the antithesis of true unity.  We families will long cherish each other, much as those who were previously set, within the bounds of American culture, have proven enduring.  It’s time for the next step forward, and the rising generations are leading the way.  I am gladly following that lead.

NEXT:  Chonju and its historical preservation

Their New Beginning

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March 10, 2019, Guangju-

This city was once best known as place of uprising- against a second-level military regime, in the Spring of 1980.  Although the uprising was initially quashed, its target, President Chun Doo-hwan, never gained the level of power and stability he wanted, and eventually stepped down, on the last day of 1988.

Today, Guang-joo is a more peaceful place and was the scene of the consecration of the marriage of Aram Boivin and Yunhee Shin, my son and daughter-in-law.  Now they have established themselves as  a full-fledged unit.  At the nicely-appointed Sangmoo Ritz Wedding Hall, a reverent blend of Baha’i scripture and tasteful musical selections made for a lovely hour-long ceremony, cementing what was set in motion with their civil wedding, last November in Guam, which, being an American Territory, provided the U.S. marriage license that will just make things easier, when it comes time for them to return to the U.S.

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I gave a short speech, as father of the groom, but otherwise submitted to the instructions of the wedding planner, photographer and master of ceremonies,  I did get in a few photographs, prior to the ceremony.

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The above has Yunhee’s name written in Hangul (Korean script), with her family name first, then her given name.  The names of us parents are written above.

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The flower arrangements are from well-wishers. Below are random photos of Yunhee and Aram, in the lobby of the wedding hall.

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Another milestone has passed, yet with it, the duties of a father-in-law, and God willing, those of a grandparent, will fall to me. My family has now been extended across the Pacific and I have a feeling the blessings far outweigh the burdens.  We will enjoy the rest of this fine week together- tomorrow with Yunhee’s parents and the remainder of the week, divided between Busan and Jeju, the place of Aram’s birth and a well-established resort community.