I’m so lucky to have great friends. I’m even luckier that some of them want to visit me in Korea. The reason that you haven’t heard from me in a while is that I’ve been busy touring Seoul and traveling all over the (southern) Korean peninsula.
One of my best friends from home came and spent two awesome weeks with me here, and I’m so grateful that she spent all that time and money to come and visit. There is just something about traveling with friends that deepen the friendship in ways that are difficult to do otherwise. While I won’t tire you with a full and detailed account of what we did, I’ll give you the highlights here.
She spent the first week in a rented apartment in my neighborhood here in Seoul. Yes, I know Yeongdeungpo sucks, but I’ve mainly moved here because public transport is very convenient (you know I’m a Mapo girl at heart) and that was also the reason I recommended this area to her.
We spent a week touring Seoul in the most amazing weather. We were all over the city eating, shopping, and sightseeing our way through each neighborhood. Among the Seoul highlights were Ihwa mural village, Dongdaemun design and culture park, Seoul museum of history, Jogyesa temple, Gwangjang market, wearing hanbok in Namsangol Village, walking over Yanghwa bridge at night, drinking coffee at cafe Hanyakbang (if you haven’t been, go!) and eating veganized Korean food at restaurant Osegyehyang in Insadong. For those who like to eat vegan I highly recommend this place and Yummy Yomil in Hapjeong where they serve the BEST vegan burgers in Korea. I go there at least once a week.
Obviously I had been to these places many times before, but there’s something special about sharing the excitement with others who don’t live here and therefore see everything with fresh eyes. As wonderful as Seoul is, it’s easy to take all this for granted when you live here. Showing my friend around the city made me so insanely grateful to be able to call this place home. Though I won’t stay here forever, I’ll be coming back to Seoul for the rest of my life like a whale coming up for air. Seoul is a part of me and I am a part of Seoul.
After a week in Seoul we packed our bags and went on the grand tour. We did Gyeongju – Busan – Yeosu, and Jeonju before returning to the capital. It was so refreshing to go into the countryside and I enjoyed showing my friend around those places too. Yeosu was new to me, though, but it had been recommended to me last year by a colleague and I’d been wanting to go ever since. I was not disappointed.
Gyeongju was spectacular as always. Bulguksa temple is a national treasure and the Cheomseongdae observatory looked stunning in the twilight. For dinner we had Hanjeongsik the big Korean feast with dozens of side dishes, and after we went to see Anapji reflected in the pond. The evening lights made it even more magical than last time I went there. The next day we went to see Gyeongju tower and took copious silly pictures in front of it.
From Gyeongju we headed to Busan where we stayed two nights in Haeundae and one night in downtown Busan. Haeundae and the nearby Haedong Yonggungsa temple was amazing although it had started to rain by the time we got there. In downtown Busan we went to the traditional Gukje Market and visited the famous fish market Jagalchi. Whenever I’m in Busan I regret not having more time to spend there. Well, until next time.
Then we headed to Yeosu with express bus. We had rented a brand new apartment through airbnb and it was a-mazing. It was right by the seaside in walking distance from everything and it couldn’t be better. We went up to a sky tower observatory to get a 360 degree view of Yeosu from 20 floors up. Then we explored the area around Yeosu expo and got lost in the narrow alleys of Yeosu mural village. I also learned that it was from Yeosu that Admiral Yi Sun Shin in 1592 sailed out to defeat the Japanese with his turtle ship. Seoul proudly displays a statue of him in our central Gwanghwamun Square and Yeosu had a similar statue of him in the middle of the town square and several references to the turtle ship spread out all over town.
The final destination on our trip was Jeonju. I went alone on a backpacking trip to Jeonju last year and I was so happy to be back. I know many Koreans find Jeonju Hanok village too commercialized but I love it. We had booked two nights in a traditional Hanok bed and breakfast run by the sweetest middle-aged couple. They have been running the place since last spring and everything was just perfect. The rooms were spotless, and every morning there was a free breakfast of eggs, fresh toast, fruit and tea and coffee. A perfect start to the day. If you’re going to Jeonju, I highly recommend staying at Sarangroo bed and breakfast. You can book it here.
We enjoyed the atmosphere in the village so much. It was much less crowded this time than last time I went, probably because the vacation season is over and school has started again. We ate delicious Jeonju bibimbap and Kalguksu and snacked on the famous local choco pies. I don’t know what it is with Koreans and cake, but man they know what they’re doing.
After two relaxing days in Jeonju, we headed back to Seoul. My friend had to catch a flight back home and I had to catch up on a lot of work. I had given myself some time off during her stay which, meant there was a lot of tasks waiting to get done. It’s true when they say that it’s easier to keep up than to catch up.
Now it’s Chuseok here in Korea, a holiday that I’ve written several posts on previously, like here and here. Today was a rainy day and I had been feeling a bit under the weather since yesterday (better now, though – thank you Korean pharmacies), so I mostly stayed indoors except for some light shopping that needed to be done. And then this evening I treated myself to a delicious dinner of siraegi doenjang rice with hot soup on the side. Always a winner.
Now I’m in my PJs and planning to call it an early night. Tomorrow is the actual Chuseok day (but it always lasts three days), so I’m debating with myself whether I should go to Yeouinaru by the Han River and have a solo picnic and finish reading my book 살인자의 기억법 – a gift from my Danish friend. She actually had no idea what she got me, since she doesn’t read Korean but I absolutely love this book. I might also head downtown for a vegan lunch at Osegyehyang. Ah, decisions decisions.
I have especially exciting plans for Saturday but they will probably require an entire blog post, so I’m saving that for later.
I’ll end this post by wishing all of you, whether you celebrate or not, a wonderful and blessed Chuseok holiday. 풍요로운 한가위 보내세요~!