These past few weeks we have been fortunate enough to do some traveling outside of Seoul. As much as we love this city, it has been nice to get away.
Soooo sorry it’s been a long time…things just got away from us….there has been a lot going on though.
Two weekends ago we traveled to the city of Jeonju with some of our international friends. Jeonju is famous it’s hanok (traditional Korean-style architecture) village, mountain scenery and great food. There was also an international film festival happening during the time we visited, but we were unable to see any of the films. It was a rainy day and not everything went as planned, but we still had a good time.
While in Jeonju, we ate delicious kalguksu (noodle soup) and mandu (dumplings) that were unlike anything we have ever had in Seoul. Everything tasted so fresh and rich, like it was homemade with ingredients from a garden. Next we took a short walk up the mountain to see a view of the city, and explored the hanok village. We also visited a small museum with portraits of Joseon dynasty kings. After a visit to the local market, we had bibimbap for dinner and then hopped on the bus back to Seoul. We are thankful that two of the friends who came with us, Asna and Ariel, speak fluent Korean. Their skills made the whole day much easier! Overall the company of our friends made the day really fun. We are going to miss them so much.
No that kid doesn’t have two heads, it’s two kids.
We are starting to think that it is a requirement that every Korean city have a nice river walk…
One of the great things about Korea is that transportation is so convenient. There are several bus terminals in Seoul where you can buy a cheap ticket to almost anywhere in the country. Thanks to the bus we were able to spend the entire day in Jeonju, arriving at about 10 in the morning and leaving around 9 at night. Unfortunately there was a lot of traffic on the road back to Seoul, so we didn’t make it home until after 2am the next day. Needless to say, we were quite tired.
On the following Tuesday we traveled to Suwon with some friends from Calum’s KUBA group to see a soccer game, Suwon vs. Beijing. The Korean fans showed up dressed in blue and ready to cheer on their team…and by cheer on, we mean rhythmic, well-rehearsed cheering songs complete with dancing and hand movements. Maybe it was the beautiful weather or the enthusiastic fans, but we found ourselves getting really into the game! By the end, we had learned some of the cheers and a few of the players’ names. The two teams ended the game in a tie.
About midway through the game, and older fan bought several churros and shared them with us. This is one of many gestures of hospitality from strangers that we have experienced here in Korea, and we are so grateful.
It was really cool seeing a game in a world cup stadium too. Just being in a place that had such a big international attention a few years ago.
A week ago I was staring at my calendar, counting the days and weekends that we have left here in Korea. There’s not much.
That being said, I panicked a little and planned our trip to Gangneung at the last minute. Thankfully, everything turned out even better than we expected. If I could describe our weekend in one word, it would be picturesque.
The city of Gangneung is known for its beautiful beaches, and those beaches are known for their gorgeous sunrise views. It also has many pine forests that extend right to the ocean’s edge. It sounds cheesy, but the smell of the pine trees mixed with the smell of the sea was incredible. As we walked near the shore on Saturday evening we kept repeating to ourselves how good it smelled. We visited three consecutive beaches—Anmok, Seongjeong, and Gangmun. Anmok beach is lined with cafés, and is less crowded than the other two. Gangmun is one of the more famous beaches in Gangneung and is home to many hotels and fresh seafood restaurants.
We walked to a bridge at the mouth of a stream, where we watched several men fish with nets and spoke to a kind local man who is studying English. In Gangneung there’s also a gorgeous lake that feeds into the ocean. We stayed near the lake for a while, watching the birds fly and the sun go down. After that we went back to the beach and turned to walk in the direction we came. To our surprise, the bridge we had just seen was now lit up in rainbow colors. Of course we had to take more pictures!
The walk back to our Gangneung guesthouse felt so long because we were tired and hungry. For dinner, we had seafood noodles at a restaurant on Anmok beach. It was quite possibly the freshest crab and mussels we have every eaten.
On Sunday morning we woke up at 4:30 in the morning to see the sunrise over the ocean. We walked to Solbaram bridge near the Gangneung ferry port to get the best view. And it really was the best view. The sunrise in Gangneung is anything but overrated.
Fair warning, up ahead there are too many pictures of the sunrise but I put them in anyway.
Someone got cold…
Older, (mostly fisherman) men of the town watching the sunrise.
After a couple more hours of sleep, we left the guesthouse, picked up an iced coffee and boarded the bus for Daegwallyeong Museum. However, our goal was not really to see the museum, but the hiking trails behind it. We walked on the Daegwallyeong pass, which according to the signs, was once walked on by scholars of the Joseon dynasty. It is 13 kilometers long (about 8 miles).
The majority of hikers were groups of Korean men and women around the age of 60, some even older. We were greeted with many smiles and shouts of “hello!” At one point we stopped next to a group of hikers and put our feet in the freezing cold stream. The atmosphere was so nice—the sun was shining, the water felt good on our tired feet, and everyone was talking and laughing. We even saw one woman drinking straight out of a bottle of soju (Korean hard alcohol) as she hiked away! Not sure how she was managing…
Place where we let our feet in to cool. There was a large group of older Koreans here earlier but left by the time I took the picture
Small Prayer stones set by someone
Unfortunately, we didn’t prepare very well for such a long hike. We really had not eaten or rested enough, so our energy levels were low. The last two miles were grueling, especially for me. Calum once again showed what a great boyfriend he is by carrying my backpack part of the way and encouraging me until we made it to the top. And the view was incredible, as promised.
After the hike we took a taxi down the mountain (we were way too tired and starving to hike back down) all the way to the Gangneung bus terminal. At the terminal we stuffed ourselves with food and snacks before boarding the bus back to Seoul. I think we both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow that night.
Not too much to add to this that hasn’t already been said. Really, it has been a little bit of a personal favorite of mine in Korea. The sunrise was unreal.
Thoughts and Reflections
Our weekend in Gangneung confirmed for us that coming to Korea was the right decision. It seems that the majority of American college students study abroad in Europe, and while that is great for some, Korea is much more our “style.”
When we were walking in the pine forest and dipping our feet in the mountain stream, we felt so peaceful. We joked that if we had chosen to study somewhere else, we could be sitting in a dingy bar instead of breathing in the fresh air. The people here in Korea have been so kind and treated us with endless hospitality. Our expectations have been surpassed in almost every way.
(Speaking of hospitality, our trip to Gangneung would not have been nearly as successful without our Airbnb host, Gina. Thank you so much for everything! We hope to meet you again someday!)
There is less than two months left until we return home! To our family and friends, we miss you and we can’t wait to see you again. We have so many things to share with you. Also, please be patient with us, because we may be experiencing reverse culture shock.
Not too much to comment on this one, Maddie said pretty much everything I would have wanted to express. It is very weird thinking of how much time has passed and how much we have left…some days it feels like not enough and others it feels far away. I definitely think we have seen and experienced some awesome things here in Korea just so far. Being able to live here an extended period of time has allowed such incredible memories to be formed.
Love from Seoul,
Maddie And Calum