Friday, October 5, 2012

A Visit to South Korea

I'm taking advantage of my current location in Asia by traveling to many nearby places usually less accessible from the US. In June, I visited my college friend Melinda, who's currently on a Fulbright teaching fellowship in South Korea. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to A) see her again, B) travel to another country I've never been to before, and C) go to Korea, which I've heard great things about and have always wanted to experience for myself!

Mel teaches English in Jeonju, a sleepy, smallish city nestled in between mountains. There's not much to do there but we did go to this hanok village, which is a small neighborhood built in the traditional style, and have some delicious tea in a traditional-style teahouse under a brilliantly blue sky.

The rest of my time there was spent in Seoul. Some highlights were Bukchon Hanok Village, a hilltop covered with traditional-style houses that people still live in. Meandering through these alleyways makes you feel like you're slowing moving backwards in time:

Then there was Gyeongbokgung, the main palace that has housed several dynasties' worth of royal families (and their concubines! they have separate concubine quarters!) and was the target of many foreign invasions. It has only been restored in the last 20 years or so, and parts of it are still under restoration:

I was fascinated by the Cheonggye Stream. It's an old stream that runs through Seoul and has gone through many reincarnations: as a peaceful observer of small business owners' shops, a sewer for migrant workers' shantytowns in the early 20th century, hidden from view and forgotten when the city built a road over it, and finally uncovered, cleaned, and restored as a romantic walk:

Mel has an interest in South Korea's cafe culture, and after going to a few, I can see why it's so interesting. Each cafe is highly unique with the most carefully thought-out decorations. It's like an extension of its owner's personality and interests, like walking into an acquaintance's bedroom for the first time and learning more about them through what you see:

These are kimchi pots! You make kimchi in these things!

I didn't take many pictures of all the great Korean food I had--I was too busy stuffing myself and enjoying it--but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a picture of omija tea, which is a "five-flavor berry" tea that supposedly has the five tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. If you can't conceive of that, let me assure you, it is deliciously refreshing:

Five days was barely enough to explore these two cities, let alone the whole rest of Korea. There are so many incredibly wonderful things about Korea: the people's hospitality, the culture, the FOOD (lots and lots of barbecued meat! Oh! And check out this article on famous Korean drinks, yum yum). It's not perfect--Koreans' preoccupation with physical appearances, as evidenced by the constant barrage of plastic surgery ads in metro stations and diet pill commercials--but it's a culture that I definitely want to know more about, to better understand. Think I can go back for a longer period of time anytime in my near future?

Resting/reading at our lovely hostel, Lee & No. Guest House:


  1. I was only in Seoul for a short time myself, and I agree, it wasn't NEARLY enough! It's so gorgeous, though, and I especially loved the colors of Gyeongbokgung. I kept envisioning this drama I'd watched while there, lol!

    Glad you had so much fun! I love hearing about your adventures. It also makes me...homesick isn't the word...but I do miss being in Japan and traveling!

  2. Oohh! I've always wanted to go to Korea and I love the pictures that you took!

  3. I've watched a few of their ridiculously addictive tv dramas this summer. Made me want to visit to see what it's actually like. Your pictures are wonderful! Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. That is just amazing! Wonderful pictures by the way!

  5. I'm so jealous you were able to go to South korea! I've been wanting to take my Harmony back there and be able to have her show me around! One day, one day..

  6. Such a beautiful county! I really would love to go there!

  7. How interesting and cool! I have a feeling I would be enthralled with the cafe culture, too. Also: how funny to see myself pop up as Friday Featured Blogger above, haha! I was like, WHOA! My face!

    1. And that was under the "related posts" rotating bar above. Just so I don't sound like a crazy person. :)

  8. You took really nice photos! I would love to travel to as many countries as possible..I'm definitely going to try going to Korea one day. :)


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