2013 Travel Diary #21: Return to Sancheong

Unjusa, Hwasun-gun, Wednesday 11 September, 10am. It’s not yet mid-morning, but the temperature is already uncomfortable despite the lack of sun. Once again, it’s pleasant to get inside the air-conditioned car to head back to Sancheong.

As we drive back, I give Sena a call to arrange to see her later that afternoon. As LKL’s Traditional Medicine Correspondent, she is the ideal person to show me around some of the sights of the Expo, and by 4pm she will have finished at her TKM conference (which had been scheduled to coincide with the start of the Expo) and be available to escort me round.

Chueotang with its side dishes in a Sancheong eatery
Chueotang with its side dishes in a Sancheong eatery

We arrive back in Sancheong by lunchtime, and find a restaurant known for its Chueotang. Last time I had been here it was two years ago, the day that I was to be appointed Sancheong’s goodwill ambassador. I had not been able to enjoy the food, because I was rehearsing my strange speech for the ceremony at which I was to dress up as a mountain goblin and had to praise the efficacy of Sancheong’s herbal medicine in treating the ailments of old age. This time, I could relish the food much more without such prospects hanging over me. The soup was fiery hot, the loach mildly flavoured but nicely balanced with the fragrant dried herbs sprinkled liberally on top. I would later discover that the dish is ideal healthy food for this time of year:

The benefits of Chueotang - a display in the International Pavilion at the Expo
The benefits of Chueotang – a display in the International Pavilion at the Expo

Somewhere in the mixture there was something with a kick, and my brow was soon showing signs of perspiration as I greedily tucked in, alternating between spoon and chopsticks as my attention roamed between rice, broth, the solids in the soup and the various kimchis on the side. With so many flavours in front of me I tend to rush to try them all as soon as possible, imagining that if I don’t some of them will be taken away – or eaten by my companion first. It must be a remnant of communal dining at school where if you didn’t eat quickly you didn’t get second helpings.

After lunch, we walk round Sancheong’s five-day market: the market moves between five different towns in the County, returning every fifth day. Kyung-sook has her favourite stall-holders, who always insist on giving her more vegetables than she needs.

I return to the chalet and Kyung-sook heads off home. She has chores to do, I have more editing to do, and more of the Festival to see. I’m still struggling with the text, but I battle on until it’s time to see Sena. I walk down through the expo campus, taking in some of the sights of the Traditional Korean Medicine Theme Park.

4-5 Sept Arrival
Introduction | 1 – Leaving London | 2 – Arrival in Sancheong
6 Sept The International Traditional Medicine Expo, day 1
3 – Preparing for the Expo | 4 – Honouring the spirits, feeling the gi | 5 – The official duties
7 Sept Sancheong’s finest potter, and the start of the hike
6 – An editing project is born | 7 – Min Young-ki’s new directions | 8 – Prayers to the Sanshin
8 Sept Jirisan
9 – Sunrise on Cheonwangbong | 10 – Breakfast at Beopgyesa | 11 – Mother Mago, the Goddess of Jirisan
9 Sept Sancheong, Gwangyang and Suncheon
12 – The recreation forest, and getting to know the Expo | 13 – The Sancheong Oriental Medicinal Herb Institute | 14 – Gwangyang and the journey into Jeollanamdo
10 Sept Suncheon International Garden Expo and arrival at Unjusa
15 – The Suncheon Lake Garden | 16 – Hwang Ji-hae’s The Lugworm’s Trail | 17 – Kang Ik-joong’s Bridge of Dreams | 18 – The Korean Garden | 19 – Mosquitoes at Unjusa
11 Sept Unjusa and back to the Sancheong Traditional Medicine Expo
20 – The temple of a thousand pagodas | 21 – Return to Sancheong | 22 – Tiger, Bear and herb: the traditional Korean medicine experience | 23 – The pillow of eternal youth | 24 – Yin, Yang and Ginseng
12 Sept More time at the Traditional Medicine Expo
25 – The Hallyu 4.0 Experience | 26 – The first round of farewells
13 Sept Sancheong and Hongdae in one day
27 – Last day at the Expo | 28 – Clubbing with the CFOs
14 Sept The Galleries and Museums
29 – Korea Artist Prize 2013 | 30 – New Connections | 31 – We are all heroes: Baseball and the Bull at Seoul Museum | 32 – The Seokpajeong: a haven of peace in Buamdong | 33 – An evening in Daehakro
15 Sept The Sajik Daeje
34 – The Gods of Land and Grain | 35 – Renewing old friendships
16 Sept Return to London
36 – The royal perambulation | Thank-yous

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