Have Won, Will Travel

I climbed a mountain! I should specify that for a mere 7,000 Won there was a cable car that went about half way up the mountain, but it still left us with about a mile of steep, rocky terrain to climb to get to the peak of Mount Naejangsan. So, for the purposes of this blog, I climbed a fricken mountain.

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Climbing a mountain is a mental challenge. It’s also a challenge for every other part of your body, and I don’t plan on taking it up for recreation anytime soon. Behind us people turned around, giving up the ghost in a huff of “Fuck this,” and proceeded back down the mountain side. That little voice in the back of my mind told me to join them, as did my racing pulse, burning thighs and the big bruise on my posterior from a foothold that gave way.

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But one only gets so many chances to see the peak of one of South Korea’s most beautiful and visited mountains – so I pushed through, took lots of breaks, fell once or twice more and in the end made it to the top. And it was, indeed, worth it.

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When we reached the summit, I reached for my knitting.

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We also stopped at the very underrated Guemsansa Temple, a still functioning monastery that houses the largest standing Buddha in the Orient. The temple grounds filled with the voices of the monks, and otherwise a calming silence while people filed in and out of the temples to worship and observe.

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Paradiso

In Korea farming takes place spontaneously, and ubiquitously. Everywhere you look food is being grown.

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Next to sidewalks, roadways, playgrounds, restaurants and banks. Rice steppes span out in all directions and most of the wild vegatation is left unchecked, growing verdant and lush. Not to delve into politics, but it’s a refreshing change from the largely unused land Stateside, where it seems to be getting harder and harder to have a backyard herb and vegetable garden. (Depending on where you live, of course.)

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We took a trip to Paradiso, one of the only Italian (read ‘Americanized’) restaurants to be found in Gunsan. It’s nestled on Eunpa lake in a little corner of the city that serves as a respite for the American tourist looking for food that hits a little closer to home.

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Eunpa Lake is surrounded by a path that was bustling with walkers, joggers and bikers as the cool evening started to settle in. We arrived with dusk and while we enjoyed our meal Eunpa Bridge flashed and changed colors over the still waters of the lake – making it easily one of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed with my husband.

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4 Levels of Retail Therapy

Yesterday my husband and I made a stop down to Lotte Mart – which is basically Gunsan’s version of a giant Walmart with wayyy better stuff in it – true to the Korean way of taking another idea and improving it exponentially. It’s 4 stories high, packed with bakeries, salons, toy stores, coffee shops, kiosks and of course a standard grocers on the first floor.

I purchased myself a camera just for this trip – so please bear with me while I try to re-learn the ins and outs after years of just having the camera stuck on the back on my cellphone. (And if you’re a photographer with tips or tricks that would help me, pleasepleaseplease feel free to leave them in the comments!)

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Lost in South Korea

On Wednesday morning I boarded a plane and 13 hours, and a few awkward conversations with my seatmate later I landed in Seoul, ending a 13 month military separation between my husband and myself. I’ll be here for the next month exploring, attempting to like kimchi and enjoying a once in a lifetime cultural experience that I’ll be sure to bore my grandchildren to death with.

A trip to Gongguksa Temple in Gunsan, South Korea was first up on our travel itinerary, the temple is a small relic of the Japanese Colonial period of Korea’s history so it’s not technically a Korean temple, but we’ll get around to those later.

That would be my husband standing awkwardly off to the side.

That would be my husband standing awkwardly off to the side

I found myself a little preoccupied with the temple's dog

I found myself a little preoccupied with the temple’s dog