Day 2 started early with a trip to the Togyo reservoir to watch geese and other migratory birds do what they do best… migrate. Sadly the weather was not on our side that day and a thick fog rolled in, obscuring our view of pretty much everything. It still was great to see this mysterious fog and the sounds of the birds flying overhead. Soon it was breakfast time and a bowl of jook and fresh locally grown food hit the spot. Many of the vegetables were grown on site which is something you don’t find too often in the cities.
Our second location was another bird-watching site. With out the aid of a 600mm lens it was a pretty pointless venture but it was a good walk and it felt like my days following my father out goose hunting… except we were in spitting distance of North Korea. At any rate, the red-crown cranes and white-naped cranes are common in the area and thanks to Keith Homan, I now know the difference between the two. After hiding out and trying to photograph through the fog we took a trip to the Cheorwon Peace Observatory.
With the fog so thick there was not much to “observe” but we did learn a lot about the area. What makes this place kind of cool is that there is a cathedral and a Buddhist temple right next to each other. I am sure there is a story behind this. It is interesting to walk up to the observatory and see Mother Mary on one side and Buddha on the other.
Following the observatory we headed to Woljeongni Station and then the DMZ Peace Park that looked out across to North Korea. For not-so-obvious reasons, we could not take pictures of the barren landscape in front of us. However the rest of the park was fine. The soldiers were quite nice about it stating simply “please don’t take any picture that way or our government will punish you”
The next stop was supposed to be the Labor Party Building or Nodongdangsa. This is an interesting building as it was “the former regional headquarters of North Korea’s ruling party” (Seoul Magazine). However, restoration efforts were in place to preserve this decaying/shot-up relic of the Korean War. I did get out and walk around the site to look through the annoying green screens and scaffolding to try and get some shots.
The second to last stop was Dopiansa Temple. An old temple that would have been really beautiful in the summer with the lotus ponds and everything. Sadly here too restoration efforts were taking place and it looked more like a construction site than serene temple. I did man-up the courage to ask an elderly gentleman if I could take his picture. He said “no” at first but with a little convincing he eventually gave in.
We finally reached the last spot on the tour which was Jiktang Falls. We had a big feed of Mae-un-tang first and then set out to shoot the falls. In order to catch the falls in the way that I did, I actually had to stack my crappy variable ND filter onto my polarizer. It seems to work well to get the effect that I was looking for. Soon after we packed up and headed back to Seoul.
This was a great trip and I am glad that I was asked to come along. I strongly feel that more tours like this are what is needed to open Korea up to travellers. While Cheorwon may not be on the top destination list of most travellers, it is still worth a look especially the Nodongdangsa (once they finish the restoration). Rather than trying to show how hip and cool Korea is, let show the beauty that is already there and utilize the people that have a passion for information about it. I hope in the future they will have a few more tours like this.
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