Anyway, Yvonne was at home waiting, and we stuffed our stuff (how often does English make a noun/verb combination like that, where the verb can be done to the noun?) into packs and headed out to catch a taxi to Cheongnyangri Station, with our tickets purchased well ahead, as on a Friday night this is a super busy line. The taxi got caught in every traffic jam in Korea, two in Bangkok, and one in a factory in England, which coincidentally produced jam-related products. Not the ones you're thinking of, but ones related to toes. Still, there was a moment at which we thought we wouldn't make the train.
We got to the train station with about 20 minutes to spare, and the super efficiency of the employeees at KORAIL got us on the train with at least 5 minutes to spare.
The train was a Mugunghwa, which those of you who know me know I love immoderately.
It's a train with an entire care dedicated to PARTAY, including semi-decent internet access on about 4 computers. It's a club car, norae-bang car, and massage-chair car, yet so much more.
However, as we were late, that car was utterly full.
At first I thought the computers were being used, but when I actually went into the car, I discovered it was just some dickish Ajosshi using the seats. Korean trains allow "standing" tickets, and the standees are amoral bastards, with only one idea in mind, finding and keeping some kind of seat. So, similar to politicians and pederasts in the United States.
I purchased a beer and returned to my seat with Yvonne, filled with hatred of Korea, and feelings of personal rejection.
But within an hour the train stopped at handful of stations, two of which seemed to be transfer stations to some other important places, and the "standing" customers in our car eventually all found seats...
Which sent me back to the PARTAY car, and in fewer than 10 minutes I was at a computer surfing gay goat porn, which is how I always prefer to travel.
We hit Andong at about 11, and a very short walk in front of the station led us to an awesome array of motels, from which we chose the 문화 (or, "Culture," which I only later realized might refer to something unsanitary), which checked us in for about $35 for the night. Computer with internet access (but shitty IE 6) and television included. Relatively quiet, ondol, and an electric blanket which I fear Yvonne now loves far more than me.
We liked the place enough that the next morning, before we headed out on our local rounds, we employed the establishment for one more evening's enjoyment. Despite the fact it didn't have a porno channel.
In the morning, icy and cold, we headed out to Hahoe (하회) village, which, in the horrible interstitial regions between Korean language, Korean Romanization, and pronuciation, is actually pronounced, Ha-hway. Go figure, particularly if you are a mathematician (spills to my dead homie Stevie B.). The bus picked us up pretty close to the hotel, and in the scrum for entry (we had all lined up at the bus-stop and then the bus inexplicably stopped 20 yards before that, and well over the lake of icy water between the sidewalk and the street) I got on about third and ran to the back of the bus for key tourist seats.
Then it occurred to me that Yvonne had no money to pay the fare, so I fought my way back to the front of the bus and grabbed the unpopular (absolutely no foot space) seats right behind the driver.
When Yvonne got on, I was able to slide her the money she needed to pay, and we were away.
Just before leaving, the only other foreign couple got on the bus, a rather heavy-set dude (and you know that means something if I'm saying it) and a rather less heavy-set woman. They had to stand.
Which a lot of people had to do, because the bus was utterly jammed by stop one. This makes me wonder about what happens in the tourist season, since Andong runs no more buses at that time, and it must be a hellish experience when there are scores of people trying to get on board. It's weird, and it must be horrible.
Anyway, we finally got to the place, and then disembarked to buy tickets. Apparently I was the only person on the bus who noticed that while we had been disembarked to buy tickets, the bus continued into the village proper. This little bit of notice-if-ication would be a good thing later.. Once we had tickets, we had access to a shuttle bus into the village...
Outside the village was the mask museum, which was awesome. A ton of Korean masks and a brilliant collection of masks from around the world. As a citizen of the United States I have to admint feeling a bit let down by our side, as other than a few masks from Native tribes, we were weakly represented.
Then the shuttle bus into the village. Hahoe is pretty cool, having an impressive history and being situated in a lovely spot. Because of the cold and iciness we did not take the ferry across the river, which would have allowed us to climb a 650 meter cliff to see the village from above/across the river. It was icy enough on the flat and when I plummet to my death it will not be by accident, and it will be onto a bunch of Yankees fans and not into a river.
We wandered about from place to place, with many places being closed for the season.
Once there, Yvonne was preturnaturally keen to leave, so after about an hour we headed back towards the front.
Which is where a funny but good thing happened.
Having noticed that the bus dropped us all off but still headed into Hahoe, I was curious if there was a bus stop in the village. Sure enough, take a look at that map and there is an ambiguously named 'bus stop.' I guessed this was where the empty bus had to be, so we headed there and, lo and beholden to everything there was the bus, with no line to enter.
LOL... then the bus took off and headed to the busstop just past the ticket window.
There, waited the hordes.
The bus immediately transmogrified from the bus with two cute couples (I count Yvonne and I among them) and one weirdo, to the bus with 8-million people standing including, no suprise, the foreign couple we had seen earlier...
I enjoyed watching the swine stand uncomfortably as we swayed and lurched towards Andong.
Once back in town, Yvonne and I made several unsuccessful forays at local, like within 4 blocks, tourist sites, but it was after 5 and they were closed.
So, we decided to head to the city market and its last section, which features a cluster of Jimmdalk (spicy chicken stew) restaurants.
We wandered until we found a restaurant that wasn't crowded - Yvonne seems to go for that, though I prefer the crowded ones as I expect, probably wrongly (Koreans will line up for anything that has received a good review in Korean press, and in our neighborhood this means the line up for bad burgers and coffee that is only decent at the only coffee shop in Noksapyeong that requires you to drink outdoors!) that crowded means good.
So, not a very popular joint, as we had walked past all of those....
As we finished (or really didn't, since the Jjimdalk is really a meal for three people), who should walk in but the other foreigners...
Yeah, we were being stalked!
They turned out to be a couple, with the woman currently teaching in Korea, and the man visiting.
We chatted for a while, but eventually Yvonne and I had to leave, for a quick trip to the Weolyoung bridge.
On the way we quickly stopped at our hotel (The foreigner/tourist section of Andong is quite compact) and then headed a block away to catch a cab. The cabbie swept us out to the bridge. From across the river the bridge, a pavilion in it's midsection, and an extremely well-lit structure on the hill behind it are an awesome sight. I had caught this view on the train down to Andong (though from a slightly higher perspective of the train tracks, which made it even more awesome) and wanted to come back. We walked across the thing, but couldn't find an easy access to the well-lit building, so after a bit of tracking about in the snow, we high-tailed it back across the bridge, just in time to see a taxi that had been waiting there, red light on, lose patience and drive away.
The cruel snow bit at our exposed flesh, the wolves howled, and on the frozen banks of the river, the ice-weasels engaged in the ritual combat that keeps their ragged fangs sharp for their carnivorous tasks!
So we began to head across the street to a coffee shop to have a cup and get a call-taxi. When, praise allah, another taxi appeared at the site to drop some tourist off, and we nipped into it a bit sharpish, and got a ride back to downtown. Our transportation luck on this trip was so awesome that to make up for it we will likely be struck a bus rammed into us by an out of control subway train.
Once back in town, we headed to the "mall" section of town hoping that something was going on, but it was the lull week between xmas and new years (the xmas tree had already been turned off) and we were there dead early. So, two drinks at the WA bar and we headed back to the motel to watch various shite movies, in English at least, until sleep came.
Which was fitful, since Yvonne was in full-snore mode and the wind was whacking away at something loose in our hotel room window.....
We woke up on Sunday just after 9, still a bit tired and with Yvonne ill (she'd had a cold most of the trip). Still, we struggled out to the bus-stop to catch a bus to Bongcheong-sa, a temple, but when the bus pulled up the driver told us it have been closed by snow - that is the snow of the previous night, which must have towered over one centimeter in height.
Still, there is no discounting Korean incompetence in the face of snow, and as we turned away to walk back towards the train station, who should we run into but our Canadian stalkers on their way to the bus. Looking back at the bus we noticed that two rather determined looking Koreans in full Everest-gear had hopped on the bus despite the news the bus would not go to the temple. This made me go back and ask the bus driver how long, once the bus turned back, the walk through the snow would be if we wanted to achieve the temple. He said it would be an hour, and that would mean an hour hiking back. As it was utterly frigid and howling wind, we did the French thing and retreated.
So, back to the coffee-shop we'd had coffee in the previous morning and a resetting of goals.
We hit the two places we'd missed the previous day, with the Museum of Modern Culture being, for lack of a better phrase, insanely awesome. Every exhibit was interactive and most were in Korea, Chinese and English. The place itself looks unprepossessing from the outside, but the bulk of it is underground and.. well.. insanely awesome, including (perhaps the least technological of all the wonders), a place to take pictures of your friends in masks, with a pretty perfect blue-screen background.
The only slightly weird thing was that they had a wall of Andong and mask-related things for sale, but you couldn't get them at the museum. Each object had an address and phone number to contact for sale, and many of them were different. While Andong in general is good for tourists, its bus schedules are idionsyncratic, it deals with snow even worse than Seoul, and it's marketing is a bit incompletely thought through.
We finished all that excitement and still had over 5 hours in town. I overruled Yvonne's desire to go the Andong Folk Village, and instead had us hop a cab to the Soju and Traditional Foods Museum
OK, so I was wrong.^^
A totally boring exhibit in a warehouse in a boring part of town.
Luckily, we were able to grab a cab in which the cabbie got my bad directions to the Folk Museum. I knew it was out by the dam, so in Korean I asked him to go near the dam. Once he had that destination I tried to explain what we really wanted, which came out as the pathetic 안동 폴크 (As close as I could phonetically get to "folk") 문학관. To which, after some consideration, he replied 민속 박불관 and of course he was coming correct.
Which we got out to, turns out it is just past the bridge, and enjoyed tremendously, even though the second floor managed to be colder than the outside.
Then, a short walk back to and across the bridge, and just as we were discussing getting a cup of coffee and a call taxi I looked down the road and saw the city bus pulled over by the side of the road just about 100 meters behind the bus stop. Which, we hustled and bustled to, and less then 10 minutes later we were on a bus that trundled us back to city center.
We ate some Andong Galbi and I had a chance to taste some of the famous Andong Soju. It's famous for two reasons. First, it is supposed to be made the "old-fashioned" way, with original style ingredients and no artificial anythings. Second, its alcohol content is at least 2 times higher than that of normal soju. Unfortunately, it tastes absolutely horrible. I had tasted soju *from* Andong (NOTE: Because of Korea's bizarre chaebols and local authority rules, every region has its own soju that cannot be sold outside of that regions) and it tasted better than the Seoul version. But the "Andong Soju" (which implies the higher alcohol rate) tastes like medicine, and Yvonne was utterly delighted to watch me struggle and grimace my what through a bottle (for science... FOR SCIENCE! I wanted to see how much drunker I would get.^^). As we walked towards a coffee shop, I occasionally burped up a bit of it, and it reminded me of eating liquid-capsule vitamins as a child; it tasted pretty bad going down, but even worse when belched up from a full stomach.
Then it was off to a PC Bang for me, remaining at the coffee shop for Yvonne, and a romantic re-meeting around a heater at the train station....
And the train, the mighty Mugungwha, and the road home..