Friday was a 3 day weekend here in Korea. It was Buddha’s birthday, and so 3 friends and I decided to be intrepid and explore Haesingdang park. The park is famous for giant stone and wood phallic statutes. Here in Korea it is a family park.
We met up near Hapjeong because that was on line two of the subway, and the bus station was on line two so it seemed like a good place to gather. One of the things I love about Korea is the ease of getting around. Even on a national holiday, you seldom need tickets to the bus or train in advance. Usually you just go up to the counter, get a ticket for the next bus and you are good to go. We lucked out, and were able to get the bus that was leaving in 15 minutes. We also lucked out in getting the last 3 seats. ( my other friend was going to meet us there)
Now it was a major holiday, so traffic getting out of Seoul was a bit hairy. We were alright, talking and napping, napping and talking.. until, about 3 hours into a trip that should have only taken three hours, we started to feel a bit, how shall I say, antsy? – We saw one rest stop. Good. We passed one rest stop without stopping. Not so good. We saw another rest stop. We passed that rest stop too. I am in pain by now. So I go up to the bus driver. He asks if I want air conditioning. I say no, I want the rest room. He says 20 minutes. I say, not good. He then stops at a rest stop at one of the toll roads. Every woman on the bus thanks me.
Haesingdang park is in Samcheok, a small city on the east coast. Usually it takes 3 hours. I estimated with holiday traffic it would take about 4 hours. 5 hours later, we were in Samcheok bus station. What we didn’t know was that there were two bus stations. We arrived in one, and my friend arrived in another. Fortunately Samcheok is a small town, so the other bus station was only around the corner. We made introductions and decided upon a plan. The plan was to find a hotel and then get something to eat.
We found a cute little hotel, then walked around the town. There was a beautiful small park, sculpture and a fountain that wasn’t turned on, and I thought looked beautiful in a ghostly/ industrial way. We stumbled onto a restaurant where everyone was eating outside. The food was outstanding. We had dweage galbi and barbecued beef. The kitchen played cheesy 70’s songs, we laughed and ate. Then walked around the town a bit more.
The next morning, we got up, and went to the park. We took a city bus there, and the route was gorgeous. There were beaches, and bays and fishing villages all along a winding road up and down a lush mountain. The weather was perfect. Cloudy, cool and with a soft breeze from the ocean.
Once we arrived, we got tickets and picked up a flyer with the story of the park. It goes like this:
Once upon a time, in a coastal village there lived a beautiful girl who used to gather seaweed. In the distance there was a rock called Aebawi where plenty of seaweed grew. One day, this young girl was taken out to the rock by a man in a boat. The man, who had a pact to marry her, promised to return to the rock to pick her up after she had collected seaweed there and he went back to the village. At dusk, she waited for the man to come and take her home, but he was unable to come and fetch her due to wild waves. That very night a terrible storm arose and a large wave struck the rock, drowning the ill-fated girl. From the time of her death, the fishing catches turned bad for the village and so a rumor started circulating among the villagers that is was due to the dead girl’s bitter soul. Finally the people of the village decided to offer carved wooden phallic statues as a sacrifice inside Haesingdang to console the bitter soul of an unmarried girl. Mysteriously, after that, the village again enjoyed a good catch.
A village carving giant penises for me would console my bitter soul too. The thing that most impressed me about the park, besides the obvious, was how beautiful all the walkways and trails were. Even if the reason for going were removed, the park itself would be well worth the visit. I was surprised at how many families with children were there (although here in Asia, giant penises are more likely to be out and about than in America).
I chose my travel companions well. We walked along together, then would split up and walk and explore alone, then meet up again and walk along for a while. It was peaceful there, by the sea. And I said the park itself was quite beautiful. Jasmine was in bloom and as we walked along the paths and near the rocky coast the sweet heady and heavy scent followed and enveloped us.
Here are some more pictures of the wonderful trip: These are from the small park in downtown Samcheok
Some of the park itself:
And for Raymond: