Recently, a co-worker invited me to visit the Shinwa Art Village with her.
“Try to look pretty,” she told me. “I have an expensive camera and you will be my model.”
“Your expensive camera only works if I look pretty?” I replied, joking.
“I don’t like ugly pictures,” she told me, frowning.
Deciding to change the subject, I asked what time we would go. I had worked the past three Saturdays, and I was looking forward to sleeping in for a change.
“I will pick you up at 8:30. The light is better in the morning.”
Ack! I was beginning to regret accepting the invitation. I like adventures as much as the next person but generally only after 10am; noon if possible on the weekend.
Saturday morning dawned hot and sunny. The weatherman was predicting a high of 35C. Glumly I wondered if Alice (my co-worker)’s fancy camera could be programmed to ignore sweat.
Alice pulled out onto the busy main road, muttered something about not knowing the way, and stopped her car. In the middle of the road. The very busy road. The very busy road full of very fast, very big trucks from the Hyundai factory. Unconcerned, she put her hazard lights on and proceeded to program her GPS. I closed my eyes and prayed to anybody who would listen.
Thankfully we arrived at the Art Village in one piece. According to Alice, the village was created when the Hyundai factories were being built. Ulsan is home to Hyundai car factories, Hyundai shipyards, and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). The villagers were relocated in order to build the factories.
It was unclear if the village was ever considered a desirable place to live but over the years, it had become a bit of an eyesore. The villagers however were both poor and elderly (the average age of the residents is 70), and unable to repair things themselves. Thankfully, some bright spark somewhere suggested murals, and the village was reborn as the Shinwa Art Village. The murals are a combination of amateur and professional, and the village became a tourist attraction.
The gong show started almost immediately. I will include only a few pictures in this blog post but let me assure you that HUNDREDS were taken. Us getting out of the car, us walking down towards the village, us arriving at the village… and each mural required several poses – standing, leaning, smiling, not smiling. I’d shoot myself if I was a professional model!
After walking around for a bit, I began to sense a theme- whales. Whales are one of the symbols of Ulsan, which I think is a bit strange since they eat them.
This is one of the professional murals, painted by a famous Korean artist I’d never heard of.
Some of the murals were a little awkwardly placed – a few times I’d take a picture only to realize I’d inadvertently also taken a picture of someone’s kitchen or bathroom. Thankfully the rooms were unoccupied. 😀
The Hyundai factories were visible from just about everywhere in the village.
After several hours of posing and wandering, I was ravenous, sunburned and ready to go home. Alice, however had further plans – a walk around a nearby lake. (I can hear you asking why I didn’t say NO! and head home. The answer is that nobody says no to Alice. She’s a force to be reckoned with. Even the principal lets her do what she wants. 🙂 )
The lake was actually a reservoir. On the bank were large letters extolling the cleanliness of the water while in the distance, the chemical plant smoked. I wondered if I’d see some 3-eyed fish, or 2-headed chipmunks.
Halfway around the lake we discovered a tiny Buddhist temple decorated for Buddha’s birthday.
There was also a tiny St Peter’s. Why?
Which, of course we did.
Thankfully next in Alice’s plan was lunch, followed by shopping. I managed to drag myself home at 5pm, after trying on some Hello Kitty fake glasses. How could I not finish the day off in style? 😀