Hello friends.. another week of broken blog promises. But this is my third post in a week to make up for the serious blog failure.
So this past weekend (May 21-23), I took my first weekend trip to Seoul! Friday was Buddha's birthday, and a national Korean holiday so we didn't have to work and were able to catch a train up early Friday morning. Upon arriving, we heading to Itaewon to find housing (a popular foreigner district of Seoul). Well apparently we weren't the only ones who had the idea of going to Seoul because we walked around Itaewon for over an hour looking for a place to stay. We finally stumbled upon a "Korean Love Motel" that was super cheap and would let all 6 of us stay in 1 room together. For those of you curious as to what a "Korean Love Motel" is, google it. Seeing as how my Grandparents read this (shout-out Gram Tanner and Gram and Pap VonBlohn!!), Imma leave that one for you to explore yourself. But I will give you a preview of our Oasis:
After settling into paradise we decided to head off to Olympic Park; home of the 1988 summer games! Cue photo montage:
The first 3 are wide shots of the actual park in the center of the Olympic.. Park.
These next 2 are of the EPIC fountain we found at the entrance to the park. It was 90 degrees out... and honestly who doesn't love playing in fountains? Though we were getting some pretty odd looks from the parents who were watching their young children play...
So we pretty much hung out at the park all day Friday. There were a lot of great trails to walk around and it was nice just being able to lay around in the sun. Friday night we found a cute little "Mexican" restaurant to have dinner/drinks. I got enchiladas which weren't terrible, but weren't the best I've had. But my poor friend Baeda decided to go for the nachos...
Nachos made out of cheese wiz fail. I think that's the last time I'll try and find good Mexican food in Korea. After, we went to a district called Hongdae, which is literally known as the "entertainment and clubbing district." To sum up, it was another one of those nights where I went to bed as the sun was coming up. I thought partying in Gwangju was insane... but nothing can compare to a night spent in Hongdae... and that's all I'm gonna say about that.
After having an amazing American brunch at an epic find of a restaurant called "Gecko's," we headed to the business district of Seoul to explore and find Jogyesa Temple. Jogyesa plays the biggest role in the current state of Buddhism in all of Korea. Check out http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264352if you wanna learn a bit more. Cue photo montage part 2:
There was the most AWESOME display of lanterns surrounding the temple. Words can't even describe just how unbelievable the colors were. Like most of the photos I took at the temple, pictures don't do it justice.
We got to witness a Buddhist prayer service. The monk was singing the most beautiful chant, but again I can't put into words how incredible it was to be present for this. It brought me to tears. I am blessed to be able to experience this moment. I made a short video of the monk chanting (and of the temple surroundings) so check it out at the end of this post.
Some of the trees surrounding the temple are over 500 years old. I wish I could say something more than "words can't describe yadda yadda yadda..." but in all honesty, they truly can't. The temple and the colors were all so beautiful... being here was so overwhelming, but in a good way.
Hey! Remember that time I photo bombed a movie? Yea... that was awesome. They were filming a movie on the temple grounds (hence the cow and filming paraphernalia you may be able to see in the first picture) and since ruining pictures is sort of my thing, I felt the need to step up my game. win.
After hanging around the temple for a good portion of the afternoon, we decided to check out the Insadong area, which is known for having ceramics, handcrafted paper goods, amazing traditional clothing and jewelry, etc. I didn't buy any thing this first trip because there was way too much to look at and "take in," but needless to say people back home are going to be getting some pretty epic Christmas gifts this year. Cue rain. fail.
It was just a cold drizzle so we decided to ride it out and head over to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Unfortunately, we decided to not go into the palace grounds because it cost money, it was cold and rainy, and we were all pretty much exhausted. Though we did stare at the gates surrounding the palace and there was a free area to walk through.
Front entrance to the palace grounds.
A building that I never caught the name of on the palace grounds that was free to explore.
So at this point the exhaustion was overbearing, the rain was freezing, and we were all starving. After freshening up at the motel... we headed to explore the alleys of Itaewon to find food. We ended up at the cute little Thai restaurant:
^^ This is probably the most delicious (and spicy... holy wow spicy) curry I've ever had. This place was definitely an epic find. We headed to a bar called Bungalow next where the floor is covered in sand! They also have some of the best (and expensive) mojitos I've ever had. They also have giant swings everywhere that you can lounge in:
^^ lounging in the sand... haha.
Saturday night was pretty chill. We were all too exhausted (and too poor) from the day/night before so we called it an early night (and by early night I mean we were in by 1am instead of 4am). We headed back to Gwangju the next morning and the rest of my Sunday was spent napping/watching movies/not cleaning my apartment. That's all for now... I'll leave you with the video I captured of the monk chanting during the prayer service: