With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime


Posted by Heliocentrism on October 14, 2009

All Pictures

That’s the campsite across from the grassy knoll

We don’t speak English, but okay.

To camp on Jarasum you need to have reservations. To get reservations, you need to have a Korean National ID card. To have a Korean National ID… I think you see where I’m going with this one.

Last Saturday I called the camp office at Jarasum park to ask if it was okay for me to camp there that day even though I didn’t have reservations. I got a very common reaction that some Koreans give when having to speak English… giggles.

I find this extremely annoying. Grown people should not giggle when nervous. It’s normal for kids to do it, but adults should know better. I also think it’s odd that Koreans get nervous when speaking English. If you speak English, fine. If you don’t, that’s okay too. You’re a Korean in Korea. No one should expect you to speak English. So why get nervous?

So I called. No one there spoke English very well. I think there were about 3 people in the office when I called. They kept passing around the phone and giggling. Yes, they were all grown-ups. Finally one guy came on the line who spoke a little English.

I began to speak in Korean-English, using English words that most Koreans would know.

Follow the green sidewalk across the street from Mark to get to the campsite

“I want CAMPING today. Can I CAMPING today? “

The guys say, “okay”.


Guy: “okay”

Me: “TODAY?”

Guy: “okay”


Guy: “huh?”

Me: “CAMPING today ok?”

Guy: “Okay. Camping today Yes”

During the whole conversation I heard a woman and a guy laughing in the back ground. It’s times like this when I think that sometimes, some Koreans aren’t very professional when dealing with non-Koreans at work.

I’m just an alien in Korea

Yo no hablo español muy bien, pero lo intento.

I don’t speak Spanish very well, but if I had to talk to a Spanish-speaking person on the phone at work I most definitely would not laugh. I wouldn’t pass the phone around. I would put that person on hold while trying to find someone who spoke better Spanish than I did. If that didn’t work, I would use the little Spanish I knew to help her or him. I would not act unprofessionally, by giggling like a little girl. No one can expect me to speak Spanish so what ever little Spanish I know is fine. And, that would just have to do.

I do not expect anyone in Korea to speak English fluently or even just a little bit. I know I am a foreigner in Korea and it is my job to learn Korean. But my Korean is usually a lot worse than the average Korean’s English. So, communication works better if we speak mostly in English. And I do appreciate any, and all attempts made by Koreans trying to talk to me in an English-Korean-miming fashion.

I do, however, expect a level of professionalism when I call a place of business or go to a store, restaurant, or a company. I know that giggling is a typical response that many Koreans have to embarrassing or uncomfortable situations. But at work, in a place of business or commerce, it turns off customers. When it happens to me, I feel like the person I am talking to doesn’t take my business seriously and I want to do my dealings elsewhere.

Living in Korea I come across this nonsense all the time. Bank tellers start to giggle when I ask about transferring money. Grocery store stockers giggle when I ask for the location of items. The wait staff of restaurants giggle when I place an order. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a huge Jr. High class.

Just a bunch of kids

A message to any working Koreans reading this from an average non-Korean:

Your English is fine. Just the fact that you are attempting to speak to me in English or trying to understand my poorly pronounced Korean impresses me very much.  Just continuing your interaction with me with confidence will leave me with a very good impression of you and your company. If you start giggling and acting like a shy 12-year-old, it will all go to hell. I will want to leave and look for a more mature acting person to handle my business.

So I park on the campsite? So where does my tent go?

Where is the nature I was promised?

So, we got to Gapyeong and we saw the campsite. Mark and I were very disappointed because it looked like a big lawn with tents and cars on it. No trees, no nature, no potential campfire. But, it would have done since we were already there.

We went into the office to get a camping spot. This is where we found out that there were no spots left. The weekend was a big camping festival and the place was fully booked. Mr. “Okay” just doesn’t speak English. He didn’t know what he was saying.

It’s one thing to get to a crappy campsite. It’s another to get to a crappy campsite and not be allowed in. And it’s a whole other thing to get to a crappy overcrowded campsite and not be allowed in because some giggling numskull doesn’t have enough sense to say, “no”, “don’t know” or nothing at all, instead of “okay”. But what can you do?

Intergalactic Planetary

We ended up staying at a very interesting love motel that night. It had a space theme that I didn’t completely understand, but whatever… It was on the bus route, not too expensive, and came with some free bottled tea and soft drinks to drink our sorrows away.

Nami Traffic

Where everyone and their Mom can be with nature

Nami is a huge tourist trap. It would be nice if it weren’t so crowded or if I could walk down a path without  constantly having to jump out of the way of bicycles, cars, or carts. There is some nature, but not that much.

Who is she? I asked you to marry me and you said, “okay”. Why are you giggling?

It’s very hard to find a quiet spot on the island to be left with one’s own thoughts. Though, this is what the island was designed for.  The bungalows on Nami are highly overpriced. The island is at best moderately scenic.

Ostriches on patrol

We did find one quiet area, but then we were chased away by ostriches. But at least they had no problem with us posing with them and weren’t too unfriendly. When they gave us the creepy stare of death, we moved along.

It would be fine if we lived in the area, but it’s not worth the time, effort, or money it takes to get there from Seoul. I think it is just over-hyped because “Winter Sonata” was filmed there. Since I have never seen the show, I really would have preferred some quietness.

Mark making do

Personal Space

I didn’t get train tickets for Seoul in advance because I didn’t know when we would be leaving. When it was time to go there were no seated tickets left on the next train. We would have had to wait until 8:00pm for a seat. Getting out of Gapyeong was our top priority so we got standing tickets on the next train.

This is when I came across another annoying thing that non-Koreans have to deal with. If you are in Korea and you are not Korean, some people forget that you are still a real person. Things like privacy and personal space are luxuries you don’t get.

As I stood at the counter getting information about the train, some creepy guy stood right behind me with his nose almost on my neck. I thought that he was trying to jump the line by standing in front of the person who was next after me. I turned around and ask Mark very loudly, “What’s with this guy?” Then I noticed that there was no line. It was just me talking to the ticket man and Mr. Creepy breathing down my neck.

When I got our tickets, I walked away from the counter. Mr. Creepy walked away too. He just wanted to know where the Foreigner was going, but it never  occurred to him to try to talk to me. Instead he strained his neck to listen to my conversation and then he tried to look over my shoulder.

Unfortunately this is all too common. I’ve had strangers try to touch my face, hair, jewelry,  breasts, and once an ajuma (older lady) on a train grabbed a hold of my butt and refused to let go. Sometimes, non-Koreans are really not thought of as people, but as side-show oddities.

Public bathroom on Nami Island with a little library

Next Adventure

Mark and I feel cheated out of a camping trip and a chance to be close to nature. Rather than trying out something new next weekend, we’ve decided to go for something we know is good.

We’re headed back to Ganghwa Island and to the campsite with the hard to pronounce, obscenely long name. We were really impressed by it. This time we’ll climb further up for a better spot and leave our two mooching friends behind.

All Pictures

South Korea

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.






  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


How to Get There:

  • 37°48’52.0″N 127°30’38.6″E

1. by Bus:

2. By Shuttle

  • You can take a shuttle from Tapgol Park in Jongro. This bus is purple, red, and orange and it will take you to the ticket office in the parking lot near the ferry to Nami Island.
  • Cost:
    • A round trip fare is 15,000KRW for an adult and 7,500KRW for one-way. You can buy your ticket to Nami Island before you get on the bus with a package fare of 23,000KRW, saving you 2,000KRW.
    • You should call for the Nami Island Seoul Center for reservations at 02-753-1245~8.

Cheongnyangi railway station

2. By Train:


  • When there areno more seated tickets left they continue to sell tickets on the train.
    • Whenever possible, buy your tickets ahead of time. But, if you don’t know what time you will be heading out, then it is better not to buy your ticket ahead of time.
  • Standing for the whole ride is no fun, but the ride is less than 2 hours long.
    • If you do not have a seat, try to sit in one of the stairwells on the left of the train when heading to Seoul and on a right stairwell when heading away from Seoul. That way you can easily exit at your stop without having to do any gymnastics over the people sitting by the exit you want.
  • This trip was originally written in 2009. Transportation in Korea has vastly improved since then. Check with google (Click on “How to get there:”) for the most up-to-date ways to travel.

Jarasum Campsite


How to Get There:

  • 37°49’11.4″N 127°31’14.4″E

From Gapyeong Train Station

  • Follow the direction on the map and walk to road #46.
  • Walk down road #46 towards Nami Island. You should see a sign that directs you to Namisum.
  • Pass the firehouse and go under the bridge.
  • Follow the green sidewalk and turn left.
  • You will see signs to Jarasum Campsite soon after.


경기 가평군 가평읍 달전리 산 7번지


  • 031-580-2700



  • Jarasum is mostly know for its jazz festival.
  • If you have a tent and you’re looking for a cheap place to stay, Jarasum is great. But it is not really a campsite where you can be close to nature or built a campfire. This is actually an “auto campsite” where people camp out of cars or campers.
  • You should make reservations before going during the summer or any festivals. Unfortunately most of the people who work there do not speak English and will say “okay” to anything you ask even when they do not understand what you are saying.

Nami Island

How to Get There:

  • 37°47’29.1″N 127°31’32.0″E

From Gapyeong Train Station:

  • Follow the direction on the map and walk to road #46.
  • Walk down road #46 towards Nami Island.
  • You should see a sign that directs you to Namisum.
  • Follow it.

From Insadong – By Shuttle

  • You can also take a shuttle from Tapgol Park in Jongro. This bus is purple, red, and orange and it will take you to the ticket office in the parking lot near the ferry to Nami Island.
  • Cost:
    • A round trip fare is 15,000KRW for an adult and 7,500KRW for one-way. You can buy your ticket to Nami Island before you get on the bus with a package fare of 23,000KRW, saving you 2,000KRW.
    • You should call for the Nami Island Seoul Center for reservations at 02-753-1245~8.




  • Shuttle Roundtrip 15,000KRW
  • Shuttle one-way 7,500KRW
  • Shuttle & Nami Island Package deal 23,000KRW
  • Just Nami Island 10,000KRW (Round trip boat fare includes the entrance fee to Nami Island. It is also called a visa to the Naminara Republic. This is the only way to get to the island.)


  • Information Center 031-580-8114
  • Seoul Center 02-753-1245

I don’t know if these number are for English speakers.



  • Nami Island is okay. There are lots of open spaces for picnics, but it’s really too far to go just for a picnic.
  • Everything on the island is over priced. It’s not as close to nature as the Naminarians think and it is way too crowded to be truly relaxing.
  • While walking down romantic paths, we constantly had to watch out for cars, bikes, and Segways.
  • Since it is a supposed to be a get-away, there isn’t much to do on the island.


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