Yesan: Soccer, Hiking, and Buddha’s Birthday

Craig finally got back from Oman. They held him over for a few days “in case something came up” which, of course, nothing did. I think they are trying to sneakily find ways to gradually move him over to site, since there are only about half a dozen guys on the project still in Seoul. He nipped that in the bud, hopefully, by demanding comp time to be added to his holiday next month.

We had a fairly quiet week, going out a few times to enjoy the cool evening weather. I’m still wearing a light jacket, but Craig isn’t at risk of heat stroke. It’s really the best time of year for us. 🙂 Last year, we fell in love with a wine buffet near our house, but they decided to renovate it, and said renovation is now in its third month. In its place, is the Renaissance Hotel’s wine BBQ, held in the outdoor beer garden, and we have made that our second home. We’ve met Criag’s friend Rob there a few times and have been on our own a few more times. So far, we’re averaging 2-3 times a week when I’m working days.

At any rate, he’s back, which can only mean one thing: a weekend away. The 28th is Buddha’s birthday, so it’s a long weekend. We had Saturday morning train tickets to Yesan, but we arrived too late to pick them up. We jumped on the train, after literally making a run for it. And just as literally almost keeling over at the effort of running from the taxi rank to the track. The train was packed, and the reservation confirmation doesn’t tell you your seat numbers, so we pulled up a corner of the floor in the dining car.

Not even pretending to play.


About half an hour into the trip, just as I’m wondering why people don’t just ride for free, the ticket girl came in and asked everyone hanging around in the dining car for their tickets. Craig feigned ignorance, like he actually thought a piece of paper with no seats listed was our ticket, and Korean Rail makes a game of figuring out your seat number on your own. She played along and told him we just had to pay standing seat fares, because our tickets had been cancelled when the train departed.

Craig and I both hate sitting on the floor, even if there is good food involved, and the lack of good food made it even worse. So, Craig decided enough was enough and rented out one of the noraebang booths for the remainder of our trip. Was that ever a great idea! The seats are bigger and more comfortable than any other train seats and we were in a private booth, away from the groups of people who think the rest of us find their half-shouted conversations as fun as they do.

Our private Noraebang room on the train.

When we arrived in Yesan, we took a cab to the soccer ground. This can be a bit of a gamble when we go see the lower division games, because the grounds are usually municipal grounds that anyone can rent out. So, the cab driver may not know what we are talking about. This one did, and took us straight there, chatting the whole time. He offered to pick us up after the game to take us to our final destination, Sudeoksa, which was pretty good for us, because the grounds were a bit off the beaten track and Craig had had trouble getting a cab out of their on his previous visit.

We were early for the match we came to see, but on a secondary ground, there was an over 50s tournament going on. We were the only spectators and got a bit of attention as a result. We were given drinks and offered a meal with the athletes. Craig was even offered a uniform, if he wanted to join in. Unfortunately, he wears about size 310 shoe, which is about 30mm longer than any sold in Korea. Anyway, it was time for the main game: Icheon Citizens vs Yesan City.

An average-looking player in the Over 50s. There were a couple of ringers in there, though.

The grounds were pretty nice for a municipal stadium– there were stands all the way around and one side was covered. The game was pretty good, too. It ended up Icheon 5: 2 Yesan. Craig reckoned Icheon were a bit unlucky to have the score that close, and I’ll have to defer to his (far) greater understanding of the game.


After the game, we were saved from the chatty cabbie by another driver who took us to Sudeoksa, and then a few other places, when it turned out that there are no yogwans near the temple. The fourth place was the charm, and we got a great room at a place which named itself (logo and all) after T-mobile. You’d think they’d go for something a little more upmarket while they are stealing names and trademarked images, but to each his own. The room had a giant TV, computer, a good mattress, a separate bath and shower and powder room, and even a sofa and coffee table. I’ve had apartments in Korea that weren’t nearly so well appointed.

Sunday morning, we went back to Sudeoksa and hiked to the top. It was only about 350m, but we were feeling a bit tired, so it took us about two hours to get to the top. In our defense, it’s stone stairs nearly the entire way. I don’t think there was any flat more than about 5 feet, and even those bits were few and far between. The top was a bit disappointing, as the view was obscured by trees and every available inch was covered with hikers.

There was an ice cakee man, though, so we each got an ice cream. I assume he had stored them in dry ice, because my lips froze to the ice cream and I had to rip it away, splitting my lower lip. Craig got a good laugh, but was kind enough not to take a photo of me struggling to remove the ice cream from my lips.

We only stayed at the top long enough to eat our ice creams, then we headed back down. We stopped at the temple halfway down and took some pictures and admired the expensive cars, presumably won by the gambling monks who live there. (Lived? Some have resigned.) After a short break there, we finished the trip down the mountain in record time (for us). The whole trip was only three hours. Sure, it was only 3km, but we usually take nearly as much time going down as we do going up.

Back at the base, aka “folk village” shopping mall, we had a delicious hanjeongsik meal. That’s one of my favorites in Korea. Our plan had been to walk around for an hour or so before going back to the hotel, but it was basically block after block of identical restaurants and souvenir shops. So, we walked over to the bus stop, saw that it was time for the bus, and headed back to our hotel in Deoksan.

Several blocks of perfectly manicured trees in front of faux-traditional buildings and not a single room to be had. The shops were divided between: healthy mountain vegetables (aka weeds), restaurants selling the cooked version of said mountain veg, and souvenir shops selling China’s finest.

For dinner, we walked around looking for any place with chairs and ended up at a “famous” restaurant. It even had its own tour bus. They had several tables with chairs, but told us we had to sit on the floor. They changed their minds when we turned to leave, and by the time we finished our meal, I thought there might be a customer mutiny, because everyone who came in after us asked to sit at one of the other tables with chairs and they were all knocked back. The owner explained that we were foreigners and needed chairs. Works for me.

We headed home Monday morning to get a little housework done before heading over to see Noel Gallagher at AX.