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Saturday, June 20, 2009

A rainy day adventure


Korea is such a beautiful, green country. As you drive around the countryside, there are rice fields absolutely everywhere!

Monsoon season is here in force. From the time I woke up (6:00, completely oversleeping my alarm!) to this very moment, it's been pouring rain. Sometimes a light drizzle, other times a downpour, but the rain hasn't ceased and the sun never showed its face today. 

On that note, a group of teachers went whitewater rafting today!

Okay, so it wasn't the best weather to be outside. If the trip hadn't already been on the agenda, I would have been perfectly happy to spend the entire day watching movies and wearing cozy sweatpants. But everything was booked and, hey, you're going to get wet anyway on the raft. Right? 

Goodbye, Seoul!

This random guy kept his hood on the entire ride, but at the rest stop WHERE IT WAS RAINING, he took off his hood to go outside! And then put it back on when we were back on the bus. What?!

From our pick-up point at Jonggak Station, it was a three-hour bus ride northeast to embark the rafts. The tour company provided a buffet lunch before the trip. It's can be difficult to eat vegetarian here but my plate had some seaweed, potatoes, bean curd noodles in fish sauce (too salty!) and the old standby, white rice. Yum? 


My little plate. The glazed potatoes were the best part. Bean curd noodles? Not so much.

Good thing I packed a backpack full of snacks. People teased me for this but I managed to avoid getting sucked into buying chips, cookies and candy at the rest stop. It's always smart to pack your own -- money-saving, too! Although I was "forced" to get a latte after rafting to warm up. Such a nice afternoon pick-me-up! 

Before. Dry and waiting.

Getting set up with gear -- paddle, life jacket and helmet.

Super-cool Korean water shoes. 

We finally got into our rafts and spent more than an hour going down the river. At one point, the guide said that we were entering a 300-meter stretch of world champion rafting and warned that it was very dangerous. It might have been a little more bumpy than the rest of the trip but it certainly was nothing death-defying. (Although apparently a tourist did die there once. Hmmm...) Methinks the tour company overstated a bit to drum up a little excitement. 

The frequent rains had raised the water level quite a bit and made it a pretty good rafting trip, much better than whitewater rafting in Thailand. I'd say it's a Class 3, maybe.

Only in Korea. I love Shelly's rafting outfit. Heels, skirt and goggles (around her neck). 

It actually wasn't too cold once we got used to the pelting rain and constant splashing from the river. At one point, everyone jumped it to take a little swim but by the end, I was absolutely freezing. Remember, it's the middle of June. I was wearing a cotton tank top and shorts; my change of clothes was a sundress. I was definitely not adequately prepared for temperatures in the high 60s and constant rainfall. Second time in a week that has happened....

Our guide was really funny. She didn't speak much English (Lydia translated) but she was able to constantly tell James and Oliver how handsome they were and her first question was whether they have girlfriends. The entire trip was full of, "Hey handsome guy!" "Handsome guy, you are so powerful!" So clearly the rest of us were just dead weight! 

Even another guide (male) jumped onto our raft to tell the guys how handsome they were and to find out if they like to drink soju. It was bizarre but hilarious. 

By the end of the trip we were all soaking wet and COLD. A quick change of clothes, a little snack and we were back on the bus for the return drive to Seoul. I managed to make a serious dent in my current read, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, an absolutely fascinating book. It's taught me a lot about what Seoul was like during the Korean War -- it's crazy to think that almost exactly 59 years ago (June 29, 1950) Seoul was invaded by North Korea -- and what life is like just a few miles to the north.

After rafting. We were completely soaked and freezing but it was a great trip! 

It's still pouring down outside and the forecast for tomorrow shows more rain during the morning. Plans are somewhat up-in-the-air but I'll probably be attending a traditional Korean wedding in the  afternoon, so that should be a lot of fun and a good photo opportunity. 

*Fingers crossed for sunshine*

Official countdown to Australia: 7 days

A little entertainment in the subway