A Tour of Suncheon 순천!

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EunYoung and I went on a one day tour to southern Suncheon. For 35,000 won (~$35) we visited three different sites. The first site was Seonamsa Temple (선암사), a temple located on the west end of Mount Jogyesan. With a packed tour bus, we climbed out and took a morning hike to the temple.

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We climbed down to the bottom and took pictures under Seungseon Bridge. Unfortunately, once we were down there and had crossed the stream, there was no way we were going get back unless we got soaking wet. I like to imagine I’m cool enough to cross rivers and climb things like some kind of action hero (which is how I was able to cross in the first place), but no … I’m in my late 20’s and definitely not agile and thus we were stuck.

From the distance, a Korean gentleman called out to us and asked if we needed help. Like in a drama, he slung his DSLR all dreamily to his side and directed us on how to climb the rock and he took our hands and caught us when we jumped. Haha we told his girlfriend that he was such a hero, and she giggled.

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Our next stop was Naganeupseong Folk Village (낙안읍성민속마을),   located in Jeollanam-do Province. There’s a castle and about 100 families still live there! Their laundry hangs outside, you see vegetable gardens being grown, and people are going about their every day life. I had never seen straw roofs before on Korean architecture before, it was quite pleasant! The castle walls are well preserved, it’s so beautiful from up there. EunYoung showed me the torture devices they used in the old days, and we even got to see a cute pony ^_^ 

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We then went to the Suncheon Bay Ecological Park. The reeds are beyond beautiful, gorgeous against the bright blue sky.It is the biggest colony of reeds in Korea. There are about 140 species of birds including the snipe, wild duck, and wild goose. I saw none of them hehe.For lunch we had deep-fried cockle (Kkomak Tangsuyuk 꼬막탕수육), which was deliiiiiiicious! We then walked through the reeds and then hiked Mt. Yongsan Observatory. It took us 40 minutes to hike up there, and as we watched one of the most beautiful view I have ever seen, we realized we had just 30 minutes to get back on the bus. Friends, I have no idea how I made it down that mountain in 10 minutes without breaking some bones. Suncheon was amazing. I would have loved to stay there for the weekend rather than rush through everything in just one day. Go to Suncheon, it is beyond amazing and a perfect place to live the last days of autumn.

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Hiking in Hanboks to Samseonggung Shrine 삼성궁

Roadtrippin!

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We took advantage of the beautiful weather one Saturday to head down to Jeolla-do, the south-west area of Korea. The fog seeped back into the mountains, the air smelled like dirt and trees, we moved through highways and roads that would leave us southbound. We were pleasantly surprised to find a persimmon farm.
2We ended up in Handong, an area famous for its mushrooms. We stopped by the information center and had lunch. It was the most delicious lunch EVER! It was truly homemade, the pajan was superb and really the best I’ve ever had. The bean paste stew was homemade as well, it was both earthy and rich.

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Samseonggung Shrine 

After killing the car battery, meeting some wonderful family that helped us and adored Eric’s foreign look, we dressed up in our beautiful hanboks and trekked up the mountain. According to Wiki, Samseonggung shrine was established in 1983 by Ham Pil, a Taoist priest. Teachings here include Chung (loyalty), Hyo (filial piety), Shin (faith), Yong (bravery or courage), and In (humane virtue) as well as the Six Skills of reading, archery, horse riding, propriety, Gwonbak (hand striking), and music and song. The shrine was created created for paying homage to the three mythical founders of Korea:

  • Hwanin (한인) – or “Divine Regent”. In the traditional Dangun mythology Hwanin is portrayed as the Emperor of Heaven himself.
  • Hwanung (환웅) – or “Supreme Divine Regent” is Hwanin’s son, who in the traditional Dangun mythology, descended to the peak of a sacred mountain long ago to bring civilized government and thus “benefit humanity”.
  • Dangun Wanggeom (단군왕검) – or “Grandson of Heaven” is the half-human/half-divine son of Hwanung. Dangun was the fabled founder of Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom, around present-day Liaoning, Northeast China, and the Korean Peninsula. Dangun is said to have founded the kingdom in 2333 BCE.

To get to the shrine was a feat in itself! The ajummas and ajossis hiking cheered us on as we climbed over rock and dirt in our wonderful attire. To get to the shrine required going through a small cave, keeping this place very protected even when other countries attacked.

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The Daejeon International Wine and Food Festival

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My friend Eric and I headed to Daejeon for the International Wine and Food Festival after waking up at the crack of dawn to grab a train at 7. I wasn’t exactly sure what it entailed, but wine-tasting and international food??? I was so there.

Our first stop was the Daejeon Art Museum (a 2,000 won cost) and the Arboretum. The museum had 3 major exhibits, and were just okay. The Arboretum on the other hand was simply amazing! So so soooo beautiful with its roses and pond, herbs and sunflowers.

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We headed inside with our 3,000 won entrance fee that included a beautiful wine glass (I got to keep it! ^_^) I was impressed with the whole setup. There was a small gallery at the entrance with some wine themed art, and musicians playing. Then there were just booths from eeeeeverywhere around the world. 2Eric and I chatted with the booth workers, some were Koreans who worked for the companies overseas, and some were from the embassy themselves. There was even a wine glass washing area so you could have a squeaky clean glass for the next sample. I usually like red wine, but white wine worked really well for an afternoon of wine tasting. Here are some of the ones I enjoyed: wine

We spent about an hour walking around and taste testing, and that’s when I realized it would probably be a good idea to go grab some grub. We headed for the back exit, and as we rounded the corner we saw rows and rows of open wine bottles, labeled “samples”. o_O So of course we needed to try a few (-_^)

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The International Food area was a bunch of restaurants selling their cuisine, all outdoors and wonderful on a sunny beautiful day. It was a bit pricey, but still worth eating. We had pad Thai, and spring rolls and an Australian burger. We bought brie cheese and crackers and went back inside for more wine. It was truly a perfect day ^_^ 
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The 6th annual Salsa Festival in Busan

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For one night, Laura, Esther and I headed to Busan for the 6th Annual Salsa Festival. I didn’t realize just how big salsa was until I went. Yeah, there are a few groups here in Daegu, that focus on teaching salsa to a t and then dancing the night away. I guess being at the beach and seeing such a large group of people made me see just how interested Koreans were. According to Busan Haps,

Koreans liked the dance so much that in the early 2000s, they started holding salsa congresses, big, weekend-long events that involve social dancing, performances and dance workshops. […] By 2008, salsa was so popular in Korea that multiple congresses would be held around the same time. This was a big change from the almost non-existent salsa scene in the whole of Asia just ten years prior.

When I got there it was a bit intimidating to see. Koreans, as is in their educational nature, are extremely hardcore when it comes to their studies. Salsa is no exception. You can see in their moves that they’ve practiced a LOT, it becomes a solid choreographed series of moves. So you can imagine as a Latina, I feel a bit embarrassed that I don’t know all the moves, or that they aren’t sharp enough. Though I grew up with this kind of music, salsa and merengue were the natural things played at birthday parties and barbecues, it was something that I never got really good at until I came to Korea. Go figure, right? The foreigner group (aka my friends) who taught it to me, though we practiced each Saturday night… it felt like we did it for the sheer fun of it. We were a bunch of ragamuffins getting together to have some fun. In other words, we don’t practice the ballroom salsa you see in a lot of the Korean groups. For me, my background is “street” salsa, what your uncle Carlos was doing and trying to teach the kids. My friends, who attend salsa parties more often than I do have told me how Koreans have been so surprised when my friends tell them they don’t take official lessons. That they’ve practiced from just doing it at parties.

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The night was amazing! Laura, Esther and I felt like we came, we danced, we conquered. We knew it was a successful night when we felt like we were showering in sweat. Seriously, it was so disgustingly awesome! Korean men, especially the ajossis, are just so good at dancing! The oldest man there somehow moved me in a way that I ended up doing a little kick mid-air like a happy-go-lucky leprechaun! Only thing that bugged me was feeling all paparazzied out, I know I know..I sound paranoid. But there is a difference between onlookers who are curious and taking pictures, and then there are the creepy voyeurs that you know are there to get off on filming and taking pics of a bunch of girls. Anyways, we just had to ignore them and enjoy our night anyways.

We ended the night with some chicken and beer, and then strolled around until we found a love motel. We had this amazing poem written on the outside of the motel in front of ours. Oh Korea, and your little charms ^_^

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Outside our motel for the night