Friday, July 26, 2013

It's Daejeon! Reflections

Greetings, dear readers. I rode the Mugunghwa train out of Daejeon yesterday afternoon and arrived back in Seoul. It's now Friday. R and I will fly to Jeju this afternoon. This post marks the transition between one adventure and another. 

Reflections on the Daejeon jaunt:

Be a man with a plan

The best way to keep from worrying or fiddling about is to stay busy. Keeping on the move meant no time to think of anything else except how to get from A to B and to enjoy everything along the way. Before I went out, I'd written down where to go and how to get there. The plan was by no means bulletproof, but it was something to work from. It centered on staying out from morning to evening and seeing as much as possible. 

Having a plan applies to daily life as well as traveling. I'm one of those people who writes an agenda for every day, including so-called off days. I do so because having a plan means having a purpose for the day. Doing things deliberately means less time for idling and more time to accomplish things. Taking the time to write an agenda also means that the day's events receive more attention than simply blundering along from one thing to the next.*

As a corollary, being alone is fine as long as thoughts about being alone don't come to mind. I've always been fine by myself.

Knowing more Korean helps

Not to be Captain Obvious, but yes, it's true. My Korean skills aren't anything special, but I've gotten quicker at recognizing words and phrases. Speaking the language comes more naturally, too.

Make it a good time, rain or shine

I strode out of the hotel yesterday to find dark skies bringing intermittent rain showers. When it wasn't raining, it was misting and drizzling. It was not looking like a good day for journeying around the city, but I knew I had to go out anyway. Here was a city that had plenty to see and I only had a short time there. Another opportunity to tour Daejeon may present itself for a long while, so I had to seize the day. I had my umbrella and the raincoat, so the pavement got pounded, and it got pounded hard. The rain humidity only became a problem if I concentrated on it, so didn't. What good would it have done, anyway? The weather is what it is: Korea gets rain, rain, and more rain in the summer time. It's not worth fighting the inevitable.

The rains did preclude visiting some of Daejeon's beautiful parks, but like the song goes, "You can't always get what you want." Actually, that's not entirely true: I could have gone to a park or two because the sun did eventually come out, but I was too fried from all the walking to want to do anything else after dinner. What transpired yesterday was more than enough, anyway. If things had gone differently, then that ride with the mom and her kids might not have happened, among other things. The days are what we make of them.

I love traveling by train

The Mugunghwa's not a bullet train, but it does have large windows and a cafe car. I enjoyed sipping a beer and watching the countryside roll by. The large windows on either side provided one lovely picture show. Additionally, train travel's predictable: A stop here, a stop there, and smooth riding in between. Bus travel means stops and starts that go with the rhythm of the traffic. It also means a smaller cabin. Both forms of transport have their share of bumps and jostles, though. 

Korea has many cheap or free attractions

Everywhere I went yesterday had free admission. Repeat: The EXPO Park, the National Science Museum, the Currency Museum, and the Museum of Education charge no admittance fees. The EXPO and the Science Museum do charge for some attractions inside, but they cost no more than 3,000won. The most money I spent at any time in Daejeon was the 10,300won train fare to get back to Seoul. Otherwise, everything else came cheaply. I'm no fan of nightclubs and I rarely stay out late anymore, so anyone who prefers to travel on a budget had best do stuff during the daylight. A few friends have mentioned that Daejeon's a fun place to live, but isn't as good of a place to visit. I disagree, for the city, wide as it is, offers wider and flatter roads to travel on and a good transportation system.

Yet after the short but thrilling time there, I'm not finished with the city. I'll return to it to visit its parks and mountains eventually. Biking along the Gabcheon (Gab Stream) also looks appealing. Until then...

*Dale Carnegie wrote extensively about planning in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I recommend it for its clear prose and excellent, practical advice.

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