Return to Jungdo

This past weekend, Craig and I went back to Jungdo for a long-awaited tent camping excursion. Last fall, we were able to get a hut, but we’ve had a tent gathering dust and wanted to give Korean tent camping a try. We had invited some friends of Craig’s from England who have newly arrived here in Seoul, but they wanted to stay in a hut. Unfortunately, all of the huts are rented for every weekend for the entire period posted on the website, so they went on a work day out to Icheon instead.

The four of us had a rather extended session at the Renaissance the night before, so Craig and I got a far later start than we had planned. We arrived at Yongsan Station and found there was a 40 minute wait for the ITX to Chuncheon. That’s a new train for us, and for some reason, it pretends to be a subway, but it’s not– you have to buy a ticket for it, then bypass the T-money readers when you get on and off, unless you are transferring to a subway. That mistake cost us the price of a subway ticket to Chuncheon from Seoul. Fortunately, that’s about 5,000 won for the two of us.

Miraculously, we were able to get a seat without a ticket. There are six seats in every car for standing ticket holders and we got two. For the second time in as many weeks, we were asked for our tickets and had nothing to show. This time, it was genuine, though. We showed the guy our T-money cards and he looked at us like we were a little soft in the head and told us it wasn’t a subway. We paid him for the standing tickets as he explained how to get a refund for our subway fare. There were no live employees evident, so we gave that idea up without much effort and just made sure to get our return tickets before getting a taxi.

When we arrived on Jungdo, we headed straight to the business office where we had paid for the hut on the previous visit. He informed us that we were expected to reserve a camping spot in advance online, but since we were there… What I think he meant was, “We expect you to set up camp anyway, so you might as well pay us.” There was a guy in a ticket booth around the corner with about thirty different books of tickets who took our 3,000 won and gave us a sticker to put on our tent. As far as I could tell, we were the only campers to actually post our sticker.

Camping in Korea is much like hiking– you must have all the gear. We showed up with two back packs filled with everything we needed. Some of the other campers had two cars for one family. As a kid, my family went camping quite often, sometimes for a week or more at a time. I can guarantee we didn’t take half of the stuff every single site had for a one-night stay. I’m talking giant extension cords on reels to power the electric lights they hung from the trees around their tent, multiple dining tables each with their own chairs , food prep tables (you wouldn’t want to have a table doing double duty), portable kitchens, cots, a tent with a porch as well as a separate awning… Some people had a tent for the parents and one for the kids.

The only tent on Jungdo that couldn’t sleep a platoon.

While we were grilling our sausages and feeling smugly superior for having a site that took less than ten minutes to set up and wouldn’t take much longer to tear down, we were obviously having an effect on our neighbors. I’m pretty sure if we had been Korean, they would have thought we were homeless. One kid and his dad came and stood in front of our site for a good couple of minutes while they looked on in astonishment. Meanwhile, we amused ourselves imagining any of them showing up at a campsite in the UK, only to find out that their set up would require 5 spots, at about 30 pounds each.

We were still quite tired from the night before, so we went to bed well before 10, despite the musical performance and fireworks going on around us. Not surprisingly, Koreans seem to think camping is a slumber party for grown ups, and the full-volume chatter didn’t quite down until it started raining heavily around midnight. At that point, most people seemed to take the hint that it was time for bed, and except for the odd kid crying about the rain (and subsequent dad yelling at him/ her to shut up), it was quiet until the rain stopped. Then, there were people walking past, talking at full volume, as though it were midday.

Between the rain and noise, I didn’t get much sleep, and by the middle of the night, I had a headache and sore throat to add to the mix. Stafford had gotten strep throat last week, and I didn’t want to take any chances of getting as sick as he had been. So, we packed up after breakfast and headed home. Craig was nice enough to give up a double header in Yanggu to accompany me home. By the time we got home, my throat didn’t hurt as badly and I was getting other cold symptoms, so I doubt I have strep, but I still feel like crap. 😦

Toes! (Not related to the post at all, but how cute are they?)