Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mt. Apsan & Sky Jump

I realize that I said last weekend was quite an adventure, but so was this one. Apparently I've got a trend going on! After an exhausting week of teaching all day and staying up late at night, I jam-packed my weekend with fabulous/new things.

I wanted to go on a hike on Saturday, but it’s so hot and humid lately. Also, if we took the shuttle bus into town on Saturday morning, we wouldn't get to the mountain until around noon. I decided that the best thing to do about that would be to stay in Daegu overnight so we could get to the mountain early in the morning when it wouldn't be so hot. 

So, Robert and I went into Daegu on Friday night with the plans to stay at a jim-jil-bong. Now I’ve been to the sauna part of a jim-jil-bong (I called it a bath house in previous posts I believe) but the main part of these places is that it’s a super cheap place to crash- and a huge part of Korean culture. The reason it’s a super cheap place to crash is that you have to sleep on the floor! (Anyway, more about that later.) First, we went to a traditional Korean tea house. It was hard to find one because they are not prominent around here. Most of Korean culture has turned to the westernized model of insane numbers of corporate coffee shops. I was shocked when I found this-and a little sad. But we managed to find this tea house down in a little alleyway and it was great! At first we ordered green tea, but we got these tiny little mugs, half-way full, with a standard bag of green tea and we were a little disappointed. Then these guys came in and got these big mugs of tea that looked very interesting; so we asked the lady for some "delicious tea" (machiseyo cha) and she brought one of the mugs over for us to smell. It was very interesting! I'll try and describe it. It smelled like a spice tea, but once you tasted it, there was very little spice. It had a very full flavor with only what I could describe as a prune undertone. It also had a dry, bitter aftertaste. Very interesting. I believe it is an acquired taste; but it wasn't bad. They also gave us these biscuit-like things which were pretty tasty! Some of them had this green powder sprinkled on which I tasted and thought tasted like seaweed but that's just my best guess. I hope it wasn't mold!

The entrance to Mido Tea House
Tea and cookies
"Machiseyo Cha"

After a good 4-5 hours of sleep, we were ready to go hiking! Or just barely functioning, but what can you do. The hike was beautiful. But it's very interesting the way the Koreans set up their hiking trails. On the bottom of the mountain it's like you're walking on a road, but it turns into a trail as you get further up. There are also work-out parks periodically as you go up the mountain, as if hiking isn't enough on it's own. It was an intense hike. In the states, you see a lot of switch-backs and there are typically steep parts but then also flatter parts so that you can catch your breath. Here, they just blaze a trail basically straight up the mountain. But there are springs periodically up the mountain that you can drink out of! It's so nice- it's much harder to run out of water that way. Once we got to the top it was pretty cloudy and foggy but there were still some great views. On the way down we explored a less-used trail and it was absolutely gorgeous! 
A foot massaging pathway- pretty intense
The work-out park. Hula hoop and the inversion table are very popular 
One of the filling stations. This water was not drinkable

Looking down at Daegu from the top

Part of the trail
Korean flag near the top
A temple we saw on the way down- there was some sort of event going on. These people were passing roof tiles up the stairs...they probably had prayers written on them

After the hike we decided to go over to Daegu Tower and do the jump! Robert heard about it a while ago and has been saying he was going to go do it so I decided to go with. We saw it from a distance and thought we would be able to walk there but it ended up being farther away than we thought so we took a cab. Then we had to hike up this huge hill to get to the base of the tower. There is an amusement park at the bottom with a gondola to the top but we didn't want to pay to get in the park just so we could do the jump. So we get to the tower, buy tickets, and head up to the 77th floor. By the time I got up there I was starting to freak out a little bit. Like, omg what was I thinking? I can't back out now I already bought my ticket! But anyway, we got our superhero suits (minus the cape, which would be awesome by the way) and harnesses on and they herd us into this tiny room that's got a platform that goes about ten feet out and ends in nothing. We all took a picture on the platform together, Robert, me, and this guy we met at the ticket counter who was also from the states. Then the other guy went first, then Robert, and then me. They hook you up to this big cable in your full body harness and then just dangle you over the ground (which is 123 meters below) and you take pictures that look like superman! And then they drop you. And you fall 123 meters (403.5 feet) of a free fall and they slow you down at the bottom, and you're done. It's such a rush! I was wishing that I could fly when I was done :). 
Rob, me, and the random dude
Getting strapped in
Afterwards we were exhausted so we headed right over to the jim-jil-bong. They provide clothes for you- they are like scrubs almost. Way too big and totally non-sexy but super comfy. Anyway, so you do the whole spa thing, put on your awesome clothes and go out to the jim-jil-bong part. Now, Robert told me this one was different than a lot of them but wow. There were two huge rooms with marble floors and lights and TVs. They provided you with a thin towel (for a blanket, or a mat?) and they had these pillow cushions. People were passed out all over- straight on the marble floor. Robert says most of them provide at least a pad to sleep on. I found a little room off of the main room for women which was dark and quiet and had a wood floor- a teensy bit more forgiving than the marble, so I slept in there. It was an interesting night. I woke up a lot- as you can imagine, I'm sure. But it was good to try it out and experience Korean culture. 

After the tower we went and got dinner at an Italian restaurant and tried to stay awake until our shuttle bus came at 9:10. That was a good couple of hours lounging on a couch with my shoes off at a restaurant that was not exactly formal, but not exactly for lounging around shoe-less. 

Today I got to sleep in which was absolutely fabulous (only til 8:30). Then I got back on the shuttle bus and went back to downtown Daegu. Today was my solo adventure day. I decided to just go out by myself, get some shopping done and try my hand in street photography. It was much more relaxed going by myself, especially since I get caught up in taking pictures and it takes a lot of time. I went back to Saomun Market and wandered around for a good three hours looking for traditional Korean things to buy for friends and fam. I also learned how crazy difficult street photography is! Walking around trying to frame pictures from the hip and be subtle is hard for me. Especially since I'm a super tall American chick in Korea with a nice camera! So much for discreet. Its also hard to point the camera in the right direction, so about 75% of the pictures I took were of nothing. But it was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to trying again. Here are some of the results. Nothing amazing, but interesting nonetheless.

This actually isn't a street photo...they thought my sunglasses were chic and asked to take a pic of me so I asked to take a pic of them. The one guy is a blogger so I may have made it on a Korean blog...we'll see! 

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