A few hours drive from my house you start to get into the emptier region of Pennsylvania. What they lack in people, they make up for in natural sites and unique tourist attractions.
Near Kutztown is a place called Crystal Cave. When you pull in to the parking lot the rest of the complex is laid out up the hill. On the left is the ticket office, where they not only sell tickets and snacks but knickknacks and edible bugs…
At the top of the hill is the entrance to the cave, where your start your tour with a introductory video. An old video. It explains where the cave came from, how it formed, and who found it. A guide then leads you through the cave, explaining the different formations. Rule number one is don’t touch anything, since the oils on your hand ‘kill’ the growth of new formations.
One of the rooms used to be bigger, but rocks from the ceiling fell and effectively created two rooms on top of one another. The rooms were used to store food (it has a constantly cool temperature). At one point a whole wedding took place inside, and they even brought a piano inside.
So, the caves were pretty cool. The formations and the bright green moss on the walls were beautiful. It was nice inside compared to the high, high heat outside.
I have to say I was disappointed with the store, though. There were so many ‘Native American’ products, none of them authentic or made by Natives. At least they were all marked.
Lenape word of the post: òlhakeike many caves in the ground
Andong is famous for it’s local traditional village, Hahoe. After coming back from Cambodia, my first new adventure in Korea was to visit my friend Ellen in Andong and go to this village to see the sights.
From my friend’s apartment we grabbed a bus to another bus. After a pretty long ride through fields, around hills, and up mountains we reached the Hahoe Village. Right where the bus let us off we could have paid to take another bus or walk along a nice path toward the traditional village. We opted for the walk and made our way through the trees.
After a short pleasant walk we reached the village itself. In front was a shop selling wooden carvings. A lot of old fashioned folk-style restaurants and houses have these…logs carved to look like caricatures of people. These ones were mostly of a more vulgar variety, with the men looking a bit phallic and the women quite busty…
In the village, which still houses a full community, quite lanes lead down alleys between courtyards. Flowers climb the walls and everything is calm.
On the other side of the village, after passing some Korean style swings and see-saws, is a cliff overlooking the entire area. For a fee you can take a ride across the river to take a look. After walking across a sandbar, you find some stairs that lead up to some old buildings used by scholars in the old days. Up higher still, atop some steep rocks is the cliff and the lookout. After looking, we went down the back and looped through to the boat.
We went across the river, through the village, and out to the entrance. A couple shops and a museum were waiting to meet us. The museum is dedicated to masks. It shows masks used in Korean folk-dances along with masks from Africa, the Americas, other parts of Asia, and Europe. Some look like eerie-people, others like animals, demons, and dragons. They even had some masquerade masks.
After out walk through, we checked out the shops, hopped on the bus, and went back to Andong proper and got our bus back to Ulsan. Weekend well spent, even though my camera didn’t make it home.
Korean word of the post: 가면 (ga-myeon) mask
Whenever you visit a new place, you get grouped in with the tourists. Not only might you not no directions, but you don’t even know the language or the local customs. But, there are a few things that worked for me in Cambodia to get more of a local look.
Many people want to go on vacation and feel relaxed and comfortable. Not me. I want to have my limited pushed, learn new things, and grow. I can go to a sit on a beach or eat American food at home. You need to travel with an open mind, and who knows what you’ll find.
One of the first things is to talk to the locals. I made friends with my tuk tuk driver and met a couple more drivers along the way. Working with tourists, they spoke English well and were eager to practice. A couple times I ate dinner with them instead of going back to the hostel and eating with the rest of the travelers. I learned a lot from them about Cambodia, and answered their questions about America and Korea.
You have to be open. When I went out to eat with them I asked them to suggest good food. I didn’t care about going to the best American or Korean or Chinese food. I didn’t care about making sure I got back to the hostel to go drinking with the other tourists. I wanted some good Khmer food. And every time, we went into a restaurant with no foreigners. Maybe it was luck of the draw, but my guess is that the real best Khmer food was there in the places that hadn’t tried to adapt to attract outsiders. I got a few strange looks, but it was more of something to remember than if I had gone to the Mexican place down the street for food and margaritas.
Learning a few words of the language helps. In Cambodia most people know a decent amount of English, especially the ones who work with foreigners in tourism, transportation, or trying to sell things at the temples. Even though they understand us, I like to meet them partway. There was no way I could learn Khmer in a week, but I could learn to count. I could learn hello, thank you, and goodbye. Plus food names. People are more likely to open up to you if you try to adapt. (And on top of that, I really enjoy languages. Which is probably obvious…)
I guess one thing that’s easy for me is to just sort of go with the flow. I didn’t know the culture, so I followed their lead. I let them show me how things were done instead of just doing it the way I did at home. At first I was quiet and let my new Cambodian friends take control. Once I’d learned a bit, I could follow some of their etiquette without a problem.
I’ve seen the people who come and vist without learning anything about the local culture. Maybe next I’ll say something about my two classes of tourists.
Korean word of the post:내국인 (nae-guk-in) a local
Chinese word of the post: 本地人 (ben3 di4 ren2) a local
Khmer word of the post: រជ្ជវាសី (raccea’viesey) a local