Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bull Fighting Festival

This weekend we went to the Bull Fighting Festival in Cheongdo. We caught a train in the middle of Seoul at 7:20am on Saturday morning, along with our friends Josh and Jamie, Josh and Bethany, and Erin. They all work for GKI's Seoul campus. After a 4 1/2 hour train ride we arrived in the rural town of Cheongdo. Saturday was a bit cloudy and rainy so there weren't a ton of people there. We had fun watching the bulls fight and toured the grounds of the festival.

That afternoon we decided to find our hotel. All we had was a printout of the hotel that was in Korean. We showed it to several taxi drivers and they told us it wasn't far away, just to walk. Ok great! So we walk. And walk. And walk. Stopped several times to confirm we were going the right direction. We were! We've gone through a market, a residential neighborhood, restaurants, then an open field by the side of a highway, up an on-ramp. Still nothing. Finally, after walking for almost 2 miles...we see it. The Renaissance castle. It was definitely a "love motel." Complete with red neon lighting in the halls and bedrooms.

Exhausted by this point from lugging around our backpacks for 2 miles we were ready for some food. We had the hotel call us a cab and we went to the only galbi restaurant in town. The food was delicious but the service was lackluster, they were slammed considering the bull fighting festival is the only thing that brings people to the town.

Back to the hotel. We're inside a store across the street for some ice cream and when we come out we meet JJ. JJ's father it turns out is the Minster of Tourism for Korea and has helped organize part of the event with the "American Cowboys." Surprisingly the "cowboys" are staying in the room right beside us. He gives them a call and Jeremy comes down to chat. Then we find out that for the past 4 years they've gone and recruited American soldiers from the Osan Army base to come and ride bulls in the festival. But this year, the base had something going on and no American soliders could come! They were in desperate need of some foreigners for the Rodeo Show and some bull riders! Ahahaha. JJ tells us that he'll pick us up the next morning and take us to the festival. Ok, it's on!

We go to the rodeo at 10am. Thomas and Josh have agreed to ride the bulls, Erin is going to commentate on the loud speaker and the rest of us are going to sit on the bull chutes and cheer them on like idiots. The event begins and we all have to do a lap inside the bull ring carrying this huge banner! Through the mud and crap. Oh yeah. Hoopin' and hollerin'. We were a sight. Did I mention that the weather was beautiful and there were 18,000 people there? Thomas and Josh rode the bulls "successfully" and got bucked off without getting hurt, thank God. Then we were ushered to sit in the VIP section with a great view. JJ also upgraded our train tickets so we got to ride home on the bullet train, first class. We made it home in 2 hours instead of 4. It was an awesome weekend!

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