PiU (samedi) wrote,
PiU
samedi

hampyeong insect and butterfly expo

I had planned on using the extended weekend to make a trip down to Mokpo (목포) with a coworker, with the possibility of several side-trips depending on our mood once we arrived. Situated in South Jeolla Province (Jeollanam-do; 전라 남도) and home to both the Mokpo Natural History Museum (the largest natural history museum in Korea) and the National Maritime Museum, Mokpo felt like an interesting destination to spend a couple of days. Plus it would let me experience a little more of the countryside than just the area surrounding the nation's capital.

My coworker had asked me to reserve bus tickets for our trip but that proved to be a task beyond my abilities since the reservation links on Kumho's English website don't work. In fact, a family emergency prevented her from coming. She later asked me to join her at a bar in the 'new' part of Uijeongbu along with one of her other friends, marking my second trip to that part of the city since my arrival eight months ago. We stayed out talking for several hours and I subsequently slept in so late the following day that it felt like a waste to spend all afternoon on a bus that would only reach Mokpo after dark. Borrowing from the list provided by Brian in Jeollanam-do, I decided to turn my side-trip idea of visiting the Hampyeong Insect & Butterfly Expo (함평세계나비·곤충엑스포) into a one-day outing to the south of the country.

I went to sleep at two that morning and woke up four hours later to catch a subway train heading for Seoul Express Terminal in time to take the first bus heading down to Hampyeong from Seoul. One hour on the subway and 4.5 hours on the bus gave me some time to nap, but I also indulged in some window-gazing as we passed by a large number of rice farms being readied for the planting season, many of which attracted cranes and other wild birds. My initial fear of not knowing how to reach the expo center from the bus terminal were quickly put to rest when it became abundantly clear that Hampyeong is a small city and the long lines of cars and pedestrians were all heading for the same place.

The expo itself was alright - fewer specimens than the entomology museum at my university, but more of them alive - although extremely crowded. Oh, and apparently I either picked the hottest day of the year (so far) to visit Hampyeong or it's just that much hotter in Jeollanam-do. The jacket I packed in my bag was completely unnecessary save perhaps as a bumper against the hordes of expo-goers eager to move between exhibits. A few kids were eager to tap on the terrariums, especially those for the tarantulas and scorpions, but a forceful '아니요' put a stop to their shenanigans. I met a gyopo from California working in one of the gift shops who was surprised to see a foreigner at the expo - a sentiment later shared by two (different) kids who saw me and whispered about the '외국인' to their parents.

The first instance came while waiting in line for the golden bat caves and my reply was to ask « 뭐예요? 외국인? 어디요?! » (What? Foreigner? Where?!) while dramatically looking around, which brought a round of chuckles from the adults present. The second was in the butterfly exhibition hall and even featured pointing. I greeted the boy with an '안녕하세요' (Hello) which made his mouth drop open in awe, at least until his mother started gently hitting him in the arm over his behavior. He then returned my '안녕하세요' with a bow deep enough to put his body perpendicular to his legs. Nice to have a happy ending to both situations.

After making it through the expo I went back to the bus terminal to buy a return ticket to Seoul, only to be told by the lone girl at the ticket booth that they didn't have any tickets to Seoul. Our conversation was in Korean and I'm not sure if the implication was that the last bus to Seoul had already left (meaning they didn't have any more tickets for Seoul that day) or that there simply aren't any buses that run from Hampyeong to the capital. She suggested a ticket to Gwangju (광주), roughly an hour away, which I was quick to accept since apparently all the hotels in town were booked on account of the expo. Our bus made it to Gwangju fifteen minutes after the last bus to Uijeongbu had left but I grabbed a ticket to Gangnam (four hours away), hopped on the subway to Dobongsan (another hour), and then caught the last train of the night on Line 1 - which conveniently listed Uijeongbu as its final stop. I left home at 7:00am and returned at 1:00am, which makes for quite the day trip.

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  • Know Your Spirits: Sambul Jeseok (三佛帝釋)

    Whether it's from red neon crosses lighting up the night sky or the sound of monks rapping on moktok it is not unusual to encounter evidence of…

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