Tue Oct 7, 2003
On Saturday I woke up late feeling refreshed after my forgetful Friday and decided to go sight-seeing. I set off with Tolstoy and Kimbap stowed safely in my backpack and the warm Autumn sun on my head. I felt like visiting some of the older, prehistorical archaeological sites I haven’t been to yet. My first destination was Amsa-Dong where I visited the excavation site of a Neolithic settlement. There were some interesting pit-house reconstructions and a decent display of arrowheads to see and the park-like setting was quite picturesque. Not really a ‘must see’ though unless you’re into the Neolithic. Personally, I’ve had more than my fill of stone flakes, pottery shards and arrowheads. I ate my Kimbap under a huge weeping willow .
After that, I decided to visit some royal Baekje tombs. I find these urban archaeological sites fascinating because of their location smack-bang in the middle of a thriving metropolis. There were nine dome tombs with stone chambers that had been uncovered, but only one had been excavated! Obviously grave robbers don’t pose a big threat in this country. Imagine the wealth of artefacts sitting for thousands of years in those undisturbed tombs.
Next I checked out Olympic park, which is a peaceful place to visit, it has a wonderful sculpture garden. What is fascinating, though, is that this location used to be a fortress during the reign of one of the early Kings and you can still clearly see the earthen fortress walls (now grass covered) and the surrounding moat (now criss-crossed with elevated freeways). A modern landscape has been superimposed over the ancient one. In the park I saw a crowd of people in the distance and heard snatches of classical music in the wind, so I thought I might be treated to a nice relaxing outdoor symphony. When I got closer though, I was disappointed to see they were just young punks lining up for a Marilyn Manson concert! Shows you how old I’m getting! I was pretty worn out after all that, I did a lot of walking, especially at the end when I couldn’t find a Subway stop.
On Sunday I met up with Brian and we went and spied on North Korea at the OduSan observatory. This particular observatory looks out over the Han River to the North, the river being the political demarcation between the two countries at this point. It really is bizarre to see the sort of active propaganda engaged in by both countries at these places of near geographical contact. Loudspeakers constantly blast insults back and forth between the two countries or blare out patriotic folk songs. There is a ‘propaganda village’ on the other side in which the North Koreans built some luxurious houses to prove they don’t have a housing problem. These houses are of course, empty, as well as the whole village actually. Still it’s fun to peer at this communist nation through the binoculars and actually, it’s a shame because it looks like there’s some excellent hiking opportunities on the other side, North Korea being so undeveloped compared to the concrete jungle of the South.
After that we checked out this ‘Bow and Arrows Museum’, a private museum in the countryside, set up by this rather wealthy man who built his house to resemble a castle. He makes the weapons himself, as his father did before him. He had a fantastic garden and he had an archery range set up where we could try our hand at archery with traditional Korean bows. I’m a bit of a lousy shot, Brian did okay. It was fun though. Then we went off-roading in the bhundus and frankly I was a bit alarmed because Brian drives a little Kia, not a four-by-four, and we were tackling some hellishly muddy dongas. We saw some dudes flying model helicopters, but as soon as we drove up to have a closer look they had a crash. Expensive little toys those things.