I recently got back from a little bit of travelling. I visited a few cities, an island, another country, that sort of thing. There was some swimming involved.
I left about three and a half weeks ago, by train. I thought I might give bumming a try, so I slept on a bench by the river my first night. It seemed like it would have been fine. I happened to find a somewhat secluded spot, and nobody hassled me, or even walked past, as far as I know. The nights are a pleasant temperature, and although it wasn't particularly comfortable, I almost could have gotten some really good sleep.
What stopped me, though, was the mosquitoes. I didn't really plan for them. It's bothersome enough just hanging around when the mosquitoes are biting, but it makes it pretty near impossible to sleep. In the end I had to pull my out my towel and cover my face with it. I had to sleep with my hands under it, too, so it was a bit of an awkward position, with my arms kind of folded across my chest so the towel could lay over them. That took care of the bugs, but it just makes breathing uncomfortable, and I had to move on about four or five hours later.
I resolved to spend the night in hotels for a while. I did that once, and a day later I took the ferry across to the smallest of the main islands. There I stayed at a traditional style hotel. It wasn't really completely traditional, and the room I stayed in was half western-style, half not. I was satisfied, but not really impressed.
I wandered around the city, though, and found the public library. I was pleased with that. They had a museum on the top two floors, a children's library on the bottom floor, and the second floor included a nice a/v collection and some internet terminals. There were little personal video kiosks for media viewing, and if I had found anything to watch (they had plenty I wanted to see, but none of it in English) I might have spent a few hours there.
I travelled down the coast for a while with no particular plans. I stayed in another hotel and a business inn and they all became less and less appealing again. Eventually I tried sleeping outdoors one more time, this time under a bridge. It was all concrete or water for meters in each direction, and the river was fast-moving, so I thought maybe the mosquitoes would not be so bad. I was right, but it didn't much matter. Just one of them buzzing around my ear was enough to make me resort to the towel again. I slept better than the previous time, but the night was cooler, and the wind woke me up around three or four in the morning.
I had gone to sleep early, though, so I was moderately well rested. The trains didn't start until after six, so I decided to walk around for a while. I didn't have any particular plans, but I was heading generally along the train line so I could just hop on the train at whichever station I ended up at in the morning. The stations were further apart, though, than I assumed from my map, and I didn't manage to walk as far and was much more tired than I expected.
So after the trains started and I made it to a station, I just got some directions to a nearby hotel. This one was nice. The rooms were excellent and supper and breakfast were included. It was the best sleep I got on the whole trip, I think.
In the morning, I went inland and then south. On one train I met a family heading to spend a few days at their aunt's house near the beach. Xin Na, a Chinese girl learning Japanese, was travelling with them, and we talked for a bit. They ended up inviting me to stay with all of them at the aunt's house, and, having no particular plans, I couldn't really turn it down.
It was great. We ate dinner together and went to the beach and things. Xin Na and I played with their eight and nine year old kids. The father was a teacher and the mother was a nurse, midwife, and chiropractic maseusse. She also had a little kit of homeopathic medicines that she bought out once to treat some sun burns. All in all, they were very fun people, and the aunt was a kind person, too.
I moved on and took a ferry, a few hours of trains, and another ferry over to Korea. The ferry goes overnight, and my second class cabin was full of middle aged Korean ladies packing duty-free cigarattes, whiskey, or who knows what else into their suitcases. They were nice and fed me breakfast.
I only spent a day in Korea, and most of it was at some big park. It was Sunday, so it was full of old men playing Go or shogi. I watched for a while, and heard some words I recognized. Apparently there is a bit of vocabulary cross-over, but other than this, I didn't really know, or pick up, any of the Korean language. The ferry back over was more laid back. I had a much less crowded cabin, and met Daiki, another college student who would be returning home the same direction I was.
He had his route all planned out, and he invited me to come along with him. It was very convenient, and he even sold me one day off his five day train pass. Those are a convenient little thing, which I didn't fully grasp until I was almost done travelling. For what comes out to around twenty dollars a day, they sell these five-day passes which allow unlimited travel on any of the local trains. Express routes aren't allowed, so we were stopping at every station along the way, and ended up being on the train from about ten in the morning to seven at night. After that we split up and I took my last little leg home, with plenty of time to hear about everyone else's travels before heading into bed.