Here’s a rundown of what we loved about having lived in Korea for the past two years. We left in April and miss a lot of great things. We want to get this down finish this blog so we can move on to our Turkish blog.
The Short List:
Shopping in Korea can takes a little getting used to, but quickly became on of our favorite activities. We loved the outdoor street markets, especially the one in front of our home. We loved the varieties of cute merchandise in the Stationary Stores, the great customer service everywhere, and eating out was always an adventure and usually a treat. Here is a video of the outdoor market on our block. We loved this little market and miss it every time we go to a big grocery store.
Korea, for its being tiny – half the size of Minnesota – and highly populated, has an abundance of parks, mountains, rivers, islands, and coastlines. There are eighteen national parks, tens of thousands of islands with countless ferries between them, and well maintained hiking trails on every local mountain. If you’re into hiking, this is the place to be. There were 3 small mountains within a 30 minute walk of our front door, and even the lesser known one offered a terrific view of the city after 20 minutes of uphill strolling. Also, Mokpo is surrounded on two sides by Shinan-gun, a county made up of 1,004 islands. We could take a bus, ferry, or our car and go poke around the islands for hours. (Quite the treat for a prairie girl!)
You can walk pretty much anywhere, any time, and feel safe here. Akasha has wandered Seoul after 11 looking for hotels and felt no fear at all. You can drink till the wee hours and hail a cab with little wait to whisk you home, usually for around five dollars. And if all that revelry puts you under the weather, the hospitals can get you back on your feet for a few dollars.
We’ve been home for almost 4 months and would love some dolsat bibimbap, mul nang mien, Gamjiatang from the Yim’s across the street, and kim bap. Or any of the dollar ramiens from the Family Mart. Or hoduk pancakes from the street vendor. Mandu dumplings. Pat Bing Su The list goes on and on… I watched this feature on L.A.’sKorea Town last night and was drooling over the sundubu and bbq
Every village in Jeolla Province, and around Korea, has their claim to fame. Bamboo in Damyang, Bibimbap in Jeonju, lotus flowers in Muan. And for a week each year, every village gets to strut their stuff during their festival. Like county fairs that bloom in late summer of Minnesota, the festival season brings the flowers of local pride to light all across the peninsula. All the vendors come out and sell their version of the specialties, and you get to sample the local hospitality.
Korea has lived up to its reputation as a gadget-friendly nation. Everywhere you go there’s some kind of free wi-fi, but even if you don’t know the password, the 3G is plentiful and fast, even on the tops of remote mountains. We’ve Skyped from our cellphones, listened to streaming audio while in the middle of a mountain tunnel, played poo-based smartphone games, and downloaded gigabytes of entertainment in minutes, rendering Netflix barely missed at all. For electronic toys, Korea is an A+ nation.
Insert plug for our friend, Pedro. We miss Pedro’s Lonely Korea tours. Pedro is an amazing entrepreneur who started a great travel company in Gwangju (city 45 minutes north of Mokpo.) We miss our Pedro adventures. He took us on great explorations, we went to the first Buddhist temple in Korea, to a sea water spa, and river rafting. I missed a million great trips with him to Jeju, caving, fishing, jet skiing, festivals… the guy plans great trips. He thinks of every little detail, and shows a new side of Korea to you. He has just opened a guest house in Gwangju, Pedro’s Guest House. Go, stay there, say hi to Pedro for us.
I’m sure we’re missing some things. The bus system, for instance. Or the weather, which was mostly great. And the people, who were always friendly and helpful. Sunrises and sunsets, or the glow of neon on magic street that we could see from our window at night.
We’re moving on to Turkey now and have just put together a new blog. Thank you for following us for the last two years, and we’d be honored if you kept up with us in the future.