After an awesome week in Japan with friends, my wife and I hopped over to Korea to visit family. Most of our extended family lives in Korea today and it just so happened that the timing of our visit coincided with my wife’s grandmother’s 90th birthday.
Even with all the family stuff we were able to sneak in some quality sightseeing. We spent most our time in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, particularly Kwangju where my wife’s family lives.
Here are some highlights from Korea.
Endless Buddhist temples
Multiple Koreans have told me that Korea is the most Christian nation in the world per capita. But there is also a deep tradition of Buddhism in the nation, with many temples hosting many active followers. In this quick trip alone, I visited three Buddhist temples.
In the past few days I learned that when you enter a Buddhist temple in Korea, you enter via two gates. The first gate seems fairly normal, but the second gate showcases scary-looking statues meant to ward off evil spirits.
The photo above was taken at the second gate in the Buddhist temple at Mudeungsan National Park. There were four big statues inside the gate. I found them all to be more cute than scary.
Posung, the Napa Valley of Green Tea
One of the more unexpected stops in my Korea tour was Posung, a region famous for its green tea fields. Driving up to the fields was really beautiful, with the roads entirely lined by full-bloom apple blossoms.
Visitors are free to walk amongst the green tea fields. There are a lot of cool hikes in the area, and you are rewarded at the end with some freshly-made green tea soft-serve ice cream. Emphasis on fresh; I watched some old lady literally mash up green tea leaves in water then dump the mixture right into a janky soft-serve machine. Very delicious.
Dasan, an old-school Korean badass
Several hundred years ago there was a Korean scholar named Dasan. He was known as a very famous scholar and philosopher. During his life he wrote over 500 books on a variety of subjects.
He was also a huge pain in the ass to the Korean emperor and was branded as a troublesome revolutionary. As punishment, the emperor exiled him to the beautiful coast of Baekryun in Southern Korea.
When you visit the Dasan memorial park, there is a lot to see: a museum, a Buddhist temple, and really amazing hiking paths up to Dasan’s original cottage. My family and I took one of these hikes and saw terrific views of the ocean along the way. This was one of the prettiest spots I’ve seen so far in Korea.
Some travel regrets
My wife and I have now been on the road with our gear for about two weeks, and we have 5.5 months left in our round-the-world journey. Already we’re having regrets about some of our purchases.
I did a bit of shopping in Japan and Korea to update my socks and underwear to more synthetic fabric mixes. I was unhappy to discover that 100% cotton products do not dry quickly when you wash and hang them overnight. This is a big problem since we are on the move pretty frequently. Synthetics should solve the problem.
The other thing that I’m regretting is this damn laptop. I’m currently typing on a 13-inch Macbook Pro. Right before we kicked off our travels, my friend Bowei Gai (also a post-acquisition, world-traveling badass), told me to just drop a grand to get a new 11-inch Macbook Air, telling me that my existing computer will “feel like carrying a barbell”.
I scoffed at his suggestion, but now I am fully appreciating the weight of this laptop. I may dig deep into my wallet and switch to a Macbook Air halfway through my trip, prior to the European leg. We’ll see. I’m also a cheap bastard and that may outweigh the pain I feel every day in my back.
Next up in our journey: China