I went on a really long, multi-modal journey today. I walked to Daehwa station and met my friend Peter who works in Bucheon. We walked (yes, walked) together to Geumchon (about 15 km), to make a visit with the old demons at Camp Edwards – the US Army base in Paju where I was stationed in 1990-1991. Camp Edwards no longer exists, having been abandoned by the US Army in the late 1990s, I think. In the last year or so, the old, decrepit buildings have been torn down – the place is now just a vacant lot and in a few more years it will likely be a housing development.
After that, we caught a number 92 bus to a town called Jeokseong (적성면), which is near the northern tip of Paju (Paju being the northwesternmost city/county in South Korea, up against the DMZ at Panmunjeom. From Jeokseong we walked up a winding mountain highway to a monument to British soldiers fallen in the Korean war, where we had a picnic lunch, and then we walked a few kilometers more to 법륜사 (Beopryun temple), on the flank of Gamak mountain. We had been intending to hike up the mountain, but my legs were feeling sore already from the walk to Geumchon, and so I wimped out. We hung out at the temple for a while and then walked back down to the highway and caught a number 25 bus to Yangju, where we got on the number 1 subway line.
We went south into Seoul and in the Russian neighborhood near Dongdaemun we went to a Russian restaurant for dinner – I had borsht (which was good) and a chicken thing called “a la Moscow” that was not-so-good. But it was interesting, anyway. Then parted ways with my friend Peter, and I took the subway home. I was tired.
Here are some pictures.
Peter saw a cloud, near the Unjeong Sindosi (New City), on the way to Geumchon. He said, uncharacteristically, “That looks like an American cloud.” I laughed, as I wasn’t sure what a specifically American cloud might look like.
A few kilometers farther on, beyond the Sindosi, we found a very run-down, rural looking area, and this very un-Korean-looking truck on a junky-looking farm. It had a rather Appalachian feel.
A mere hundred yards from the Camp Edwards front gate, I saw this contrast of an old-style Korean house with a modern school building behind it.
At the front gate for Camp Edwards (now unlabeled and unguarded – the military-related nature of the location has been erased by history, which keeps on happening), I mimed standing at the non-existent guard shack showing my ID to exit the base. I lived here for a year in 1991, and I have many vivid memories. But the barracks buildings and shops are torn down now.
At the north end of Camp Edwards, I took this picture of the pastoral scene.
After a 45 minute bus ride, this is the quaint town of Jeokseong.
And the town has one of those unfulfilling Korean rivers in it.
A few kilometers south of town, there is the “Gloster [Gloucester] Valley Battle Monument.” The battle was in 1951, during the Korean war. Many British soldiers died against the Chinese. There were many Koreans here having a Chuseok Sunday picnic. I don’t know why – it was a pretty good location for a picnic, I guess.
After our own picnic lunch, we continued walking down the highway (well, up the highway, climbing higher into the mountains but southward. We saw chicken and some geese at a vacant lot. I don’t know what they were doing there – no one was around, there was no house or farm. Peter commented that it was the world’s worst petting zoo.
We finally arrived at the temple, after a hard slog up a very steep road.
One of my favorite aspects of the typical Korean temple is the panel paintings on the outside walls of the buildings. I took some pictures of these.
I looked in the temple door. No one was there. The place was mostly deserted, except for a few hikers passing through. The monks had better things to be off doing on a Chuseok Sunday – Chuseok is not, per se, a Buddhist-related holiday – it’s connected, rather, with Confucian ancestor-rites and what you might call Korean native religion. I suspect Chuseok weekend is a slow one for the monks, and many of them go visit relatives or suchlike.
The view down the valley from the temple was pretty spectacular.
We walked down to the main road, partly along a little stream.
After the bus ride to Yangju, the train ride into Seoul at sunset induced me to take a few blurry pictures from the train.