Saturday, 22 August 2009

Weird sightseeing in Korea - part 2

Don' t worry - no history lessons this time, just weird sightseeing...

I find it pretty interesting, what Koreans find interesting as a sightseeing spot. One example is a "musical fountain". Yes, it is just what you think it is: A fountain, that is spitting out water to music. We looked at the thing during the day and it looked pretty drab and nothing happened anyway. So we asked at the tourist information and where told that the fountain only works at night. John was very skeptical, but we nevertheless decided to go and have a look.

And what a surprise: Loads of tourists and locals were out there watching the spectacle as the fountain was brightly illuminated in the tackiest colours and water fountains were dancing to International and Korean pop songs. The "choreography" did not have much to do with the music, but it was very pleasant nevertheless. And not only the fountain was illuminated; the whole area was lit up and Jinju in Korea looked a little bit like Las Vegas...

The next unexpected sightseeing highlight was the Andong Traditional Paper Museum and Factory. Because John did not feel well that day we went there on a day trip by bus and when the bus driver dropped us at the entrance we immediately thought that we had made a major mistake. The whole place looked like a run down industrial complex and there were no other tourists in sight - and the next bus was only in an hour.... bummer.

So we decided to have a look anyway and stumbled across a different world. In this "factory" traditional paper was hand made - like hundreds of years ago. And you could wander around freely - no hard hats and apparently no work safety regulations either. First mulberry bark is cut into strips and boiled in hot water for 4 hours. The bark is than dyed white and all bad material is sorted out by hand. Then the bark strips are chopped up into a mash and dyed (for coloured paper). This mash is put into big basins and diluted with water until you have a very gooey liquid. This liquid is collected on bamboo mats sheet for sheet and the water squished out - a very tiring process.

The sheets are eventually put on hot metal to dry and voila: Your paper is ready! They even had a "test area" for tourists, where we could make our own paper! Very interesting experience - makes you really appreciate the ready availability of paper nowadays.

One other thing that Koreans are extremely fond of are folk villages. Contrary to what I expected these folk villages are still lived in, so you are basically walking around people's gardens. I find these places quite disappointing, mainly because they do not look much different from what we see everyday when cycling. Also, Korean rural architecture is not the most exciting one either, especially if you wonder around these villages on a hot day with no shade....

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