The Bamboo Forest and Meeting an Interesting Character

         I’ve lived in, and traveled to hot places before, but the heat in Korea is ridiculously oppressive. With the intensity of the sun and the sauna-like quality of the air I knew we needed to make a stop before doing any exploring. 

         A beautiful parasol, purchased right in my little town of Namchang, now serves as protection for my fair skinned friend.  As a parasol owner Rachel can now apply for membership in the  secret parasol society (my request is still being processed). 

         Armed with our parasols, we caught the next bus to Ulsan.  Our Destination:  The bamboo forest.

        There is a lovely river that runs through Ulsan, the Taehwa River.  It has nice walking/biking paths alongside it, and while I don’t usually see people in the water there are dragon boat races held there during the summer months. 

        Side note: I have been meaning to visit the bamboo forest for months now, and I find it amusing that sometimes it takes visitors arriving to force one to “sight see” ones own city. I know the same goes for my hometown as well, there are so many places in Minnesota that I haven’t seen. It’s shameful really, but it can be so easy to ignore the beauty in your own backyard. 

        The river is so peaceful and when we approached the forest I almost felt like we should whisper.  Such lovely tranquility deserves to be undisturbed. 

        
         I’ve always loved bamboo but there is something extra magical about an entire forest of it, growing gracefully along the river banks.  If there was a bamboo forest in E. Nesbit’s “Enchanted Castle,” or Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Little White Horse,” this is what I imagine it would look like.

        We entered quietly,  and climbed the staircase to find that the pathway split at the top. 

                 Me: “Which way, right or left?” 

           Rachel: “Well, there is a man peeing over to the left, so lets go right.”

                 Me: “Decision made.”



         “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – 
           I took the one less traveled by,
           And that has made all the difference.”

                                       Robert Frost


  
           The man obviously didn’t feel the same amount of wonder and awe for the surrounding beauty, or he simply had consumed too much soju that afternoon (maybe both).

            After a few minutes I glimpsed a really awesome looking spider hanging out on his web between two bamboo shoots (trees, do you call them trees, stalks, shoots?). 

            I grabbed the camera from Rachel, hoping to capture the the creature while simultaneously ignoring the the rearing head of my arachnophobia. (The picture was a total fail, oh well.)

           While concentrating on the spider, I hear a crunching noise behind me and then a man’s voice saying,” Oh!! High five! You are very beautiful!” I turn as a man (yes, the pee-er), gives Rachel a high five.  Knowing that Rachel is going to need some support I abandoned my would-be National Geographic Award winning spider photo to face the peeing man. 

           He had obviously spotted us and followed to offer some sage advice.

              Man: ” Oh! you are so beautiful! I have found the perfect, very beautiful spot in whole forest. Over there see it, it’s the best in the forest. You should come visit me there.”

               Me:  “That’s nice, but we are walking this way.”

              Man: “That’s ok, it is a circle, only two minutes, I will see you soon.”

         Rachel and I both sighed in relief as he walked away, just wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet around us. With the wind blowing, the crickets chirping, and the sounds of the city far away, it really felt like we had been transported to an alternate world. 

Some ajummas hanging out near the edge of the forest. 

           We ambled slowly along the paths, enjoying the mysterious beauty and stopping here and there to take pictures. 
            


         About fifteen to twenty minutes later, we rounded a curve in the path and were met with a loud………..

         (He was back) Man: “There you are!! I said I found the most beautiful spot, I have waited for you, but you don’t come so I come to find you. My friends and I sit there, one minute walking.”

          (oh dear).

        Side Note: I never know how to handle these situations, and my Minnesota nice always kicks in which tends to leave me stranded in these awkward moments with complete strangers. At least Rachel and I were in this together this time.

          We were already walking the full circle, and I suppose we would have run into him again at some point, but him coming to find us surprised me. He walked with us to “his” beautiful spot, which happened to be a wooden platform. I was not overly impressed with his concept of “most beautiful spot”. 

          I decided that since we were going to have to endure this awkward situation for a few minutes, we might as well get some use out of it and ask one of them to take a picture of the two if us together. 



          When traveling with only two people, it is nice when someone else is willing to photograph you together so at least you have some photographic evidence of your time together.  I love the picture of us, but my plan hit a snag when our new “friend” demanded a picture with us as well.

         He asked me if I had a phone number, I lied and told him I didn’t have a phone. He also asked me for my name and email and I gave him a fake one. The poor man did nothing inappropriate, and was really nothing but friendly, but I just don’t like giving out that info to strangers.

          I am going to confess, I feel bad about lying, I know I should come up with a generic line, something simple like, “I don’t like giving out my personal information,” but I panicked. (Anyone have any advice, a good (courteous) statement to refuse giving out personal info?)

         He then wrote down his email, phone number, and address for us before we were finally able to walk away because we were “late for an appointment”. 

         He made sure we could read the note before saying goodbye, and I was somehow not that surprised to see that his name was……….

                                                 Legend


          I am hoping to take my sister to the bamboo forest as well, and although Legend was very friendly, I think I would like to keep our acquaintance confined to just one meeting.

          Side Note: We actually did have an “appointment” to get to. It was a previously planned picnic at the park. 

Rachel trying Gimbap for the first time.

Picnic at the park on a Hello Kitty towel, life is good.


16 thoughts on “The Bamboo Forest and Meeting an Interesting Character

  1. I'm glad Legend didn't spoil your foresting experience. And…drumroll…here is your line to use in the future: “I don't give out my personal information.” I just edited what you wrote and omitted the word 'like' for reasons I think you will understand.
    But my burning question is could you actually watch the bamboo grow?? That's what I've always heard!!!
    Love you!
    Your autre mere

  2. We didn't watch the bamboo grow, unfortunately, we did have our “appointment” to get to.
    I understand and completely agree with your omission of “like”, next time I will have to try it out. 🙂

  3. Very cool pics there. Also, funny choice on right or left. You're lucky, I suppose, that the pee direction wasn't the right way to go. Too bad Legend didn't spot you with a phone or else he'd have made you call him to get your number. Close call, eh?

  4. We went to the Damyang Bamboo forest, and I agree, there is something special about them! I've had countless encounters like yours with Legend, haha but I have to say don't feel bad about it. It's just weird to give out personal info. to a complete stranger. I also will give out a fake email or number sometimes, and if there is a language barrier that may be the most polite way to handle it!

    Beautiful photos of what looks like a lovely day.

  5. Those situations are always awkward! It's probably for the best that you didn't give him any of your personal information because he probably would have been that aggressive with contacting you. I've had friends in similar situations that didn't think to give wrong information. One of them actually told the guy where she taught and he started visiting her…. and eventually hitting on her!

    That said, I love the bamboo forest in Ulsan. It's a few miles from my apartment and it's a great excuse to take a long walk. I also love how the area surrounding the bamboo always has beautiful flowers!

  6. I lived in Ulsan for a year but never went to the bamboo forest (shame on me)! I did, however, ride my bike along the Taehwa River dozens of times, so I at least passed by the bamboo forest haha. I also often panic like you did and end up giving people my name/number, but actually give them my REAL info haha. I've had multiple people kakao/call me and I end up just ignoring them for however long they decide to keep contacting me. So awkward.

  7. That is what I was afraid of! I really didn't want some stranger coming to my school, no thank you! You are in a good location, it takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the Taehwa river, so when I go it's always a big deal 🙂

  8. It always amazes me how many things in our own cities we don't go and see. I am like that with my hometown back in the states. It took a friend from SA coming to visit me for me to “tour” my own city. I am leaving Korea soon, maybe I should make a list of Ulsan attractions I haven't seen yet!

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