Rainy Stories from Jungangtap Park

JungangtapThe stay at Suanbo dragged into another week of mind-numbing busy work. We passed the days typing away lesson plans and the evenings were spent drinking and playing games. There was nothing else to do and nowhere we could go. Once in a while that’s fine but day after day it starts to get old real quick. I was looking forward to the weekend and to checking out a few more of the landmarks around Chungju that we had missed the week before. Friday came and brought along with it a gloomy friend. Hello, rain. It kept pouring all day and it looked like it would continue through the weekend, dampening my spirits of freedom and adventure.A friend, Flora, who also is our resident nurse, had brought her car down and she was had the same idea of exploring Chungju that weekend. She’s from that country part of Gyeongsang-do, and her tough spirit wasn’t going to let a little rain get in the way. I was a little stubborn and reluctant about wandering around in the rain, but I eventually gave in and tagged along for the trip.

Our first stop was a place called Jungangtap Park. It has a several historic relics scattered throughout but it’s most famous for the tall dominant pagoda sitting atop a hill in the center of the park. The Jungwon Tappyeongni 7-story stone tower from the Silla Dynasty is simply referred to as Jungangtap, or “central tower” because it is literally located in the center of Korea. On the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea (CHA) website, it is designated as National Treasure No. 6.

JungangtapWe all wandered around the huge park. I had noticed there was this long stretch of pavement bordering this river that ran parallel to the park. The wide pavement extended into what I assumed at first to be a pier. I suggested we walk down the pier – I thought it’d make an interesting shot. After walking for about 15 minutes or so, we realized it wasn’t really a pier. We figured out the “river” was actually Tangeum Lake. We had also started to notice these bobs floating in equidistant intervals as if there was a grid of them spread over the whole lake. There were also saw these random empty look out booths every now and then. After a lot of hypothetical conjecture, we came to the conclusion that this was the location of some water related spectator sport. Our suspicions were later confirmed when we saw a long row boat skimming across the water. It wasn’t until later that I learned this was the location of the 2013 World Rowing Championships. There wasn’t any point of walking all the way to the end of the “pier” so we turned around and headed back.

JungangtapThe park featured a museum amidst a total of 26 cultural sculptures. The museum was small and there wasn’t much to see inside. As for the sculptures, we definitely didn’t see all 26 but we did see this cool looking traditional house. The building we saw from the pier was the famous Liquorium or “liquor museum.” When we walked up to it, they were closed. Actually, it looked more like it was permanently closed and no longer in operation. The signboards and outdoor decorations were looking a little dilapidated. It would have been interesting to see all the wine, beer, Asian liquor, and aqua vitae exhibition halls.

JungangtapAfter spending more time that we had anticipated at the park, we decided to check out our next destination, the Goguryeo Monument. I was pretty exhausted from all that walking and suggested we grab some coffee. I was hoping there would be a cafe along the way. We spotted this one random farm looking building on the side of the road with a small coffee sign in front and made a pit-stop there. It was a strange little cluster of small buildings behind the main house with oddball decorations here and there. We found a building with a coffee sign but it was vacant inside. We didn’t want to waste any more time wandering around someone else’s property, but before we left, we got this quick snapshot in of a wall of campfire logs.

JungangtapWe followed the navigator to where it was marked Goguryeo. We rolled into what looked like some land under construction. There were these museum looking buildings, but we couldn’t see anything that resembled a big stone tablet. Upon walking inside the museum, we realized it was built recently and detailed the history of the Goryeo Dynasty. At the tailend of the museum, it opened into a large, lofty, circular room and in the center stood the Goguryeo Monument.

GoguryeoDesignated as National Treasure No. 205, it is the only relic left from the Goguryeo era. The monument was set up to commemorate the occupation of a number of fortresses along the Namhangang River by Goguryeo troops. The stone has several messages written across its surface but it has been greatly weathered down from years of outdoor exposure. After doing some guerrilla research, I was able to glean a little background information about the museum-ish building from Korean news sites. Koreans were getting concerned with the erosion of the stone and started construction on a exhibition hall to house and protect the monument. It started in 2010 and ended around the summer of 2012. It appears there is no website for the Goguryeo Monument Exhibition Hall, but you can find more information on it by searching for Chungju Goguryeobi Jeonsigwan.

It was pretty late in the afternoon by the time we left the Goguryeo Exhibition Hall. There wasn’t enough time to check out any other sights so we decided to head back to Suanbo. On the way, we spotted a cafe with a colorful garden out front. This time, Flora and Spencer agreed to some coffee. The interior was fashioned with a plethora of vintage antique decor. One of the rooms had a wall of books, magazines, and instruments. After resting our legs and getting our caffeine fix, we called it day and drove back to the training institute.

JungangtapBy the way, Spencer has his own blog that he just started. Check it out when you have a chance and drop him a comment. Thanks! You can follow his travel stories at The Restless Toothbrush.

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