Wednesday (Day 407) was another absolutely gorgeous early spring day. I cannot believe spring has come so early this year, but I’ll take these pretty blue skied days. It helps that it’s not so bitter cold anymore. (Isn’t sad that I, Southern girl that I am, no longer find mid-30s to 40 degree weather all that cold???)

P and I decided to take a long hike through the woods that afternoon. About two hours before sunset, we took off. I wasn’t feeling the greatest as I was sleep deprived and dehydrated, so I figured it wouldn’t be that long of a walk. We were gone for two hours, and I have two regrets: 1) that we didn’t bring a leash for our cute little Maggles, and 2) that I didn’t bring my camera. Since I assumed we wouldn’t be exploring any new parts of the mountain (which it is, I will no longer call this mountain a hill, no sir), I didn’t grab either.

After about 45 minutes, we decided to turn into a part of the forest where neither of us has hiked in the past. It was beautiful. Vibrant green piney trees, soft mossy grass. It was like a scene from a movie. But the strange part was I kept getting strong whiffs of something very chemical, like paint thinner or something. I mentioned it to P, and he thought it might be from some of the plants in the area. We were walking into the wind, though, so we eventually decided it was probably coming from somewhere else.

Before we knew it, we had managed to lose the trail and were no longer on stable ground (fallen trees, paths cuts by a dried up stream, holes covered with leaves and other debris). Needless to say, I started getting nervous, especially when Mags almost fell in a few holes! Somehow, we found ourselves in a fenced-in area of farmland butted up against a road. I was pretty sure I recognized the road and the area, so we decided to keep going in the same direction.

Upon climbing the fence (btw, Korean fences, not as sturdy as those we’re used to seeing in the States), we were immediately faced with a burned down building. The debris was everywhere. You can imagine why I wish we’d grabbed a leash for little miss curious.

We started walking in the direction of home and found ourselves completely surrounded by an entire burned down village (apparenly, it wasn’t just one building), and, I kid you not, a legit scary sweatshop. We found the source of that smell back in the woods: It was coming from this factory.

This factory was what you’d imagine every factory in Asia must be like, only worse. The building was huge, with tiny little windows that someone had ever so courteously shoved fans into. There was soot everywhere (likely from when the village had caught on fire). Dozens of Bongo trucks (Korean delivery trucks) were coming and going. And the smell. The whole neighborhood smelled incredibly strongly of paint thinner or something equally toxic.

Overall, it was really sad to see this side of Korea: a neighborhood where hundreds likely lost their homes and business, and a factory where who knows how many people are forced to work in unthinkable conditions.

What made the entire situation just plain odd is the scene we found less than 500 meters down the hill. Just beyond the roped off portion of the village was dozens of upscale furniture stores.

I wish I had brought my camera along, so we could really share the experience with you. I will likely drive back sometime, though, as I want to document what we saw. And for those wondering about Maggie — P ended up shoving her inside his hoodie, so her little head stuck out the neck hole with his, and he supported her butt through the hoodie pocket. She was like a swaddled baby in a carrier, and was really quite happy to be there. I think we were all pretty nervous to be in that neighborhood and then walking near a busy road (four lanes of traffic on both sides, plus construction, once we got out of that neighborhood).