Monday, April 19, 2010

Our "cherry blossom" bike tour (part 1)

When we learned about the cherry blossom bike tour last February, we were one of the first to sign up. Cherry blossoms in Korea are a true cause for celebration. Not only are they delightfully delicate and paint the nearly dead looking trees with pink and white, but they also (generally) represent the end of frigid winter's paralyzing touch. However this year, winter, as I mentioned before, has refused to release us from it's icy grasp. It's shivering fingers remain tightly around the neck of Korea. Cherry blossom festivals all over the country opened April 3rd, but because of mother winter's stubbornness, the cherry blossoms shied away, only peeking out on scattered trees.

The trip, which proved to be extremely popular filled up three buses of foreigners. The organizer, then opened the next weekend as well. As the weekend got closer, the realization that the cherry blossoms might still be in hiding by the time of our trip, the organizer offered a switch. Indecisive, we wavered back and forth, finally choosing to change at the last moment to the following weekend. However, cyberspace gobbled up our message and it never arrived to the organizer's inbox despite two emails being sent. We didn't realize the appetite of cyberspace however until we were snugly on a warm subway 8:30 pm Friday evening waiting to head into Yangpyeong.

"William, I never received a confirmation that we were switched." I told him on the phone as we sat waiting for the subway to leave the station Friday evening, a few hours after the email had been sent.

"I never received an email." he replied

"WHAT!!!??" I nearly screamed into the receiver, "Are there still spots open?" I asked frantically.

"No, in fact there is now a waiting list." he replied

"I don't understand. I sent two emails not one hour after your email that there were spots open. Is there anything we can do?" I asked using my sweet voice and using my puppy dog eyes for emphasis and sympathy fecklessly.

"I can give you a refund of 50% if you don't want to go." he said plainly.

"Humph. Alright, thank you." I said quickly noticing the cue that the subway was one minute from leaving the station.

"Kyle, we gotta go!" I said grabbing his hand and pulling him off the train before the doors closed. "Sorry, we gotta go" we apologized to our astonished friends with whom we had planned to go to quiz night.

We jumped in a taxi, sped like little demons around our apartment throwing clothes, books, toiletries and other necessities into our bag for our biking weekend. The bus for the trip was scheduled at 6:30 am which meant in order to make it, we had to spend the night in Seoul with a friend. I tried not to grumble at our unfortunate luck, but it was difficult as the situation was immensely irksome.

The next morning we slept walked to the bus through brisk air. The quieter bus being more appealing for sleep, we made a b-line towards it. The bus ride was a daze. Anything anyone said to me was only an addition to my dream and not real life until Kyle grabbed my hand and placed me on a bike.

"We're here already?" I asked in my zombie state.

"It's been over three hours sweetheart. We are all supposed to meet at the tower." He replied
We got lost on the way to our first destination. This first wrong turn proved to be foreshadowing for the rest of our trip.
Coming up to the tower, I noticed oddly placed grassy hills.
"What are all of these hills?" I inquired.
Maybe this had been discussed as I was dozing, maybe it was just common knowledge, but in any case, I was the only one in the dark.
"Those are tombs of the kings" someone replied.

Throughout the city we saw dozens of these tombs. It was explained to me that kwang-ju is famous for this reason. Many of the most famous kings were buried here.

After the group shot at the tower was taken, we broke up into smaller groups exploring the area. We were given a map with trails, tourist attractions and our ultimate destination- the hostel. The problem was, the map was extremely ill-proportioned. The length of one area which we had estimated to be near an hour proved only to be 30 minutes at a leisurely pace giving us an inaccurate perception of the rest of the trails actual length.
First priority- as always when Kyle is around- is food. Because of our misunderstanding of the map, we took a leisurely lunch before continuing our route. Had we known what was in store for us, we might have made different choices. But then of course our story wouldn't be half as interesting.

Our first stop was a temple, a lame and uninteresting temple. Kyle had fun taking pictures of the area however.

We then headed towards an out of the way tomb, up an exhausting hill, once again to find nothing but disappointment. The tomb, was just that, and nothing else. A mound, a grassy knoll with nothing of interest. We thought briefly of sliding down the side of the hill just to make the most of this waste of time, but decided against it. No point in stirring up ancient angry Korean kings. We don't need insulted ghosts cursing us on top of the curse of working at a more than frustrating school.


Bekah said...

wow! although it kind of started disastrously, your pictures are adorable!

Ronnica said...

Biking is something I need to get into. Of course, that would require OWNING a bike. Such commitment!

Anonymous said...

What excellent interlocutors :)