September 2, 2019
Hey my dudes!
So, I’ve just finished my 2nd contracted year of teaching in South Korea! My students were lovely, my school was great despite the long hours, but best of all about this year was the amazing group of coworkers I got to meet and turn into friends. Since it was the last weekend we got to spend together in the country, we decided to join an organized tour with Adventure Korea!
There are so many tour companies in Korea- some definitely better than others. Taking you on all kinds of trips throughout the country ranging from Temple stays, to K-pop concerts, to craft beer making. I’ve befriended many of these companies on Facebook, and just a few weeks before leaving I saw a post boasting the most impressive itinerary and suggested it to the Rise gang.
After sleeping for only a few hours due to the hectic business that is the last day of school/moving out, waking up to meet for 7 a.m. was not desirable, but of course worth it! We all boarded the subway together to meet the tour group in Seoul which would later head toward Hongcheon in Gangwon province of Korea. Taking our spots as the cool kids in the back of the bus, we slept for the first 2 hours before arriving at the Hongcheon Freshwater Fish Museum. I wasn’t thrilled to be going in here, but when with good friends, every experience can be a fun one. We made up stories about the fish, made plenty of questionable jokes, and had a laugh about navigating a miniature maze with closed eyes.
The childless field trip turned out to be a pleasant surprise, but we were ready to get to the river for swimming, which was the next stop! Since this this was sponsored by Bassa Craft Beer Company, we each got a delicious brew to enjoy in the sunshine.
The water was just as damn cold as the rivers in Newfoundland, and it was a struggle to get in past the waist. Regardless, we had a great time and enjoyed meeting some new friends to chat with about teaching and travel. Once we’d had enough of the frigid water, it was time to head to the beer making portion of the trip!
Bassa Craft Beer Company has some interesting names for their beers, and when we tasted “wine ” which tasted nothing like wine, we found out that the names actually come from Jamaica and each of them are different ways we express ourselves when drinking- singing, shouting, dancing, and clapping. Our tour guide Andrew did a great job of explaining it all from the owner of the company, Jay, who only spoke Korean. We learned about how the town used to make all sorts of hops, but since it was too expensive, all the Korean beers now use imported goods to make their beers. We also learned that Jay has a unique hop, which he is in sole possession of, so I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for his new beer. We heard all about the beer making process but since the product was so delish, I actually don’t fully remember the instructions… oops.
After our lesson, it was time for BBQ and noraebang- 2 necessities for a truly Korean experience.
WHAT A WILD TIME. As coworkers, we see a lot of each other, but Teacher Ryan became a singing and dancing machine that none of us knew existed. The tour company had been filling our bellies with the beers all afternoon long, and the feast didn’t stop because we showed up to a meal to feed an army, and enough soju to take out their enemies. “I’m still standing” became the theme song of the night for him, and the rest of us got to have a laugh along with him the whole way through the evening. Many karaoke songs later with new local friends who were camping nearby, it was time to hit the hay.
It was an early rise again, and though I woke up bright eyed, some people from the group were a little under the weather so we decided to walk to the cafe before breakfast. Honestly, living in Korea has really upped the bar for weird themed places and this random cafe was no exception. Though the interior section was a beautiful rendition of a hobbit hole, the outside decor of ceramic pot jack-o-lanterns and rainbow umbrellas was a little lack-lustre for me.
We had another Korean style meal for breakfast, and were ready then to head off to the traditional music session in the itinerary, and boy it was way more fun that we were expecting.
Some friends got the double drum (complicated, certainly not for anyone with a hangover) and others, such as myself, got the bang bang drum which was so much fun to play. We got a quick tempo and rhythm pattern lesson from the cutest old ajeossi I have ever seen in my life, and off we went as foreigners in tank tops and jeans playing traditional Korean music. It was a blast, and I’ll post a video on Instagram showing off our talent. Tristan said it reminded her of the fish in the tank from Finding Nemo, and she wasn’t wrong, the beat was so fun I almost stated chanting myself.
With out right arms sore from drumming, we headed for lunch to a full spread of bulgogi, which was delicious and totally unnecessary since I was still so full from breakfast just a few hours prior. Damn Korean food, stop being so good… making it hard for a girl to portion control. We got up slowly from the table as it was floor seating, and got back on the bus to head to the final stop of the weekend, Sutasa Temple.
I’m slightly under the impression that many temples in a country look the same, so after seeing a few and admiring their beauty, as a tourist, I don’t actively seek them out but I must say I was so pleased we visited this one; the landscape surrounding the temple was just beautiful. Bailee said it reminded her of being in Japan, where temples were often tucked in among valleys of mountains with streams and greenery galore. We took some time to take in the ornate beauty of the paintings on the temples, and then headed to the lotus pond.
The whole trip was beautiful. All weekend long we were stunned at how great it was, especially since we did all of this for $30 thanks to a sponsorship from the Korean government which is trying to promote tourism in the area. Total success. I would recommend anyone to visit if they have desire to see Korea outside of Seoul. I also would wholeheartedly recommend a trip with Adventure Korea (http://www.adventurekorea.com/upcoming-special-trips/, and Andrew, as I’m sure it will be well planned and jam-packed.