The ancient Khmer of Angkor had an elaborate irrigation system. As part of this system, they made huge artificial bodies of water called barays. Even in the dry season, as the water level dropped across the country, these barays still had water. Although they helped irrigate the crops and support the people, the water also had religious purpose. Built out in the water were several manmade islands holding Hindu temples.
One of these islands is now known as Neak Pean, the Entiwined Serpents.
The tuk tuk dropped me off on the side of the road and I walked over to the entrance. The ranger guarding the site checked my pass, and I entered the site. At first I was confused. I couldn’t see anything special. So, I kept walking. On either side of the dirt path the ground sloped away into the trees. Soon, water started licking at the bases of the trees. Then, the path ended.
Where the dirt stopped, a wooded ‘bridge’ began. It seemed temporary, like something you put up after a heavy storm. Maybe in the dry, you can walk across the ground the whole way. Instead, I walked on boards, the trees and bushes still sticking up from the water around me.
Eventually, I reached the island. While you can image the grandeur that once was, the island is mostly in disrepair.
At one time, a series of four pools surrounded a central ring, which itseld encircled a larger pool. In the middle of the center pool, a small shrine stood. Four animal fountains flanked this shrine, one for each of the outer pools.
The pools all remain. One, the furthest from the entrance, has become a frog pond. I was serenaded by their peeps as I walked closer. The other three outer pools remain, as does the inner pool. The shrine is there as well, but the fountains are gone. I noticed pieces of a horse, but that was all.
Where the outer pools meet the central ring there are recesses holding shrines. Gold icons sit beside smoking incense. You could easily miss these, as they are invisible from above. You need to walk down along the water’s edge in order to see in. In some cases, the cracked path has worn down to mere stepping stones across the entrance.
This shrine is only a small part of the island. The trees covering the rest of the area provide a nice shade. Tourists and locals alike lounged in the shade among the trees. I even noticed some chickens in the brush as I left to go on toward my next temple.
Korean word of the post: 닉 뽀안 (nik bbo-an) Neak Pean
Chinese word of the post: 涅盤宮 (nie4 pan2 gong1) Neak Pean
Khmer word of the post: ប្រាសាទនាគព័ន្ធ (neak pean) Neak Pean/’entwined sepents’
The weekend after the whale festival we all had a long weekend. In light of this, we made a trip out to the islands of Seonyudo in Jeollabuk-do during the weekend of June 4th.
Ann, Claire, Jennifer and I met at the KTX station and headed north to Daejeon. We decided to stay the night there since it was more convenient than trying to travel all in one day. We met some people, ate some chicken, and then headed back to our motel room (the same room that Ann and I had stayed in on our last trip to Daejeon, actually) and went to sleep.
In the morning, after what would prove to be my last shower for days, we got a taxi to the bus. From Daejeon’s Dongbu Bus terminal we needed to get the bus to Gunsan, a small city on the coast. Once we got off the bus in Gunsan, we needed to get a city bus to the ferry terminal. After waiting forever and then riding the bus for a second forever, we were greeted with a sight of the sea. We booked our ferry, and waited. While we were waiting Akosua, who had left Sangju early in the morning, caught up with us. She was smart and took a taxi in Gunsan.
After the ferry, which rode over the choppy waves, we finally got to Seonyudo. We walked along the one road, past people on bicycles and golf carts that posed as taxis. The islands officially do not allow cars except for work vehicles, so its limited to bikes, scooters, and carts.
We set up camp on a narrow higher strip between two beaches. After our tents were put together, we got some food at a local restaurant (seafood, of course) and then rented scooters. Since it was peak season, it was a little pricey, but we paid it anyway, and off we went. Officially Seonyudo is actually three large islands connected by bridges. We werent supposed to take the scooters over the bridges, but we did anyway. After some near fall, since Id never driven anything like that before, we zipped all over the three islands, taking in the sights, and soon realizing the limited size of our vacation spot.
We settled back into our campsite for the night with some Fanta, soju, beer, makgeolli, Cider, and assorted snacks. Later we made a run to get some more snacks. Camping makes you hungry…We listened to music and attracted a group of visiting science professors from Korea University. Finally, we went to bed. It was chilly, but we survived.
On Sunday we had breakfast and rented some bikes for the day. We once again zoomed across the island, enjoyind the scenery and waving to the locals and other visitors who seemed to enjoy seeing a gang of foreigners. We found some rocks on the one side of the island and scrambled across. Thousands of rock lice or something like that scurried away from us as we walked. It was like being a monster…We rested in the cove that we found across the rocks before heading back. My bike made horrendous squeaky sounds. And the seat was loose. And the gears didn’t always shift. It was okay for the first 15 minutes of riding before any of this took place. :( Ann’s bike was too small. It made for an interesting ride.
Later we bathed in the ocean since there were no showers to be found. Most people rent pensions instead of camping, which might explain the derth of public bathing areas. After some more riding we went to search for dinner. Some Korean men were filleting fish and gave us some sashimi from a fish that had just stopped squirming. We moved on to find some Korean bbq and ate our fill.
After another night similar to the first we packed and got back on the ferry, back into a taxi, back onto a bus. However, the KTX to Ulsan was booked for the next 8 hours. Instead, we got a bus ticket, but still had a 4 hour wait. We got a motel room for a few hours, showered, and ate dinner before getting on the bus. Finally we were back in Ulsan. Exhausted, but happy.
Korean word of the post: 괴물 (gway-mul) monster
After the wonderous day off on Thursday, during which we found our way into our own private Narnia, we had school on Friday. My coteacher and I taught the usual assortment of 5th grade classes. In the afternoon classes, rather than the usual drag of teaching 15 odd kids at a time who just want to start the weekend, we had sports day. After four straight hours of wrangling kids who were running and popping balloons, plus the occasional break to eat chicken, I got to go home.
This weekend was the weekend before the holiday to celebrate the birth of Buddha. This was on Tuesday, so my school allowed us to have off on Monday and Tuesday, and a four day weekend awaited me. I went with Caitlyn and met Ann around 9:30 and headed toward the express bus terminal. Before I knew it, I was on a bus heading toward Gwangju, the sole large city in the southwestern corner of Korea.
We stayed at a really nice motel with Akosua and Leanne. In the morning we got a bus to Wando, further to the south, along the coast. We spent the weekend in Wando, visiting the islands and investigating the beaches. We were just in time for the Jang Bogo festival, a medieval mariner whose fleet controlled a vast portion of the seas. Centered in Wando, his sea territory stretched all the way to China. Therefore, along with the usual Korean themed activities, there was also some more maritime activities, and a large wooden ship. We ate lots of food and had a good time listening to music and browsing the area.
On Sunday we went to Cheongsando, a smaller island around an hour’s ferry ride away. On the island we walked through fields of bright yellow rapeflowers overlooking the misty sea below the hills. At the top was a house that had been used in the drama Spring Waltz. Never seen it…
Back on the ferry, back to Wando, and into town. We stayed the night, eating snacks and drinking magkeolli in our motel, before heading to bed. In the morning we got the bus to Gwangju. In Gwangju, despite some rain, Caitlyn and I took a walk and saw a little bit of the downtown. Some of it was under construction, so we didnt see as much as we would have liked.
In the evening, after some Vietnamese food, we headed to Panty Squared and to Mix. I think that’s what the places were called. Later that night, after our group had more alcohol than we should have, Caitlyn and I walked back to the motel through a downpour before getting a cab.
Finally, Tuesday afternoon, after sleeping in, we made it back to the bus terminal and got the bus back to Ulsan. And, wouldnt you know, the guy in front of me at the terminal was looking at pornography on his touch phone. The site was in Chinese characters, I noticed at a quick glance, but that doesn’t really tell me where he was from. Anyone can use a site that has some characters on it…Anyway, it was an interesting way to end a really great long weekend!
Koreans word of the post:
유채꽃 (yu-chae-ggot) rapeflower
섬 (seom) island